CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker faced questioning internally at an employee town hall regarding the race protests that have been on-going. According to the Wall Street Journal report, Zucker was asked why editorial staffers are prohibited from expressing their viewers on social media, but the prohibition doesn’t apply to CNN’s star anchors.
At the town hall, Zucker indicated that CNN was reviewing its restrictions on participating in the protests. In a prior memo, CNN instructed its employees that they could donate to nonprofits, but the employees should refrain from actively taking parts in the protests CNN was covering, as well as refrain from editorializing on social media. However, the staff can attend community vigils, according to the memo.
According to the WSJ report, Zucker acknowledged the desire to protest. A CNN spokesperson said that employees are generally expected to avoid saying something on social media that they wouldn’t say on-air.
“I love what I do right now. I feel like I found my voice and found my groove. This is my time to be me on TV,” CNN Tonight anchor, Don Lemon, 54, tells the Los Angeles Times. Though he does note, “I think about how much longer I can continue to do this at this pace and the amount of negativity that comes my way.” Lemon regularly hosts two hours of television, and with breaking news, is sometimes on even longer — and as of late, he’s been anchoring on Sunday nights, too.
The 2.4 million people watching Lemon’s program in May was up 75% from the previous year, the most growth of any cable news show that month, according to Nielsen data.
Regarding Lemon’s “maturation” as a host, CNN president Jeff Zucker said, “I think he knows how important this moment is — he’s been preparing for it his entire career. Don has always brought a little of himself and his emotion to his reporting and that’s why he’s stood out. On this story, he’s done it in an insightful and measured way that I don’t know the Don Lemon of six years ago would have done.”
Though Lemon’s mother is still concerned about him. “I am very proud of him. The only thing I don’t like is how people attack him. I’m concerned about his safety. I don’t care how old he gets. That’s my child. I’m always concerned about him.”
“[My work has] garnered me a lot of enemies,” Lemon agreed. “A lot of them in person as well. I have to watch my back over it.”
It isn’t just President Donald Trump that isn’t happy with CNN’s coverage, apparently — Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden isn’t, either.
Former CNN commentator and current senior adviser to Biden, Symone Sanders, called the decision “M A L P R A C T I C E” to not cover Biden’s events live. “It wouldn’t be so frustrating if, in the same breath, these same news stations weren’t complaining about Biden’s lack of activity,” Steve Schale, who runs the pro-Biden Super PAC Unite the County, told The Daily Beast. However, Tuesday all three cable news networks did cover his speech live, where “he offered a strong rebuke of Trump and a unifying message for a nation suffering from civil unrest” following the protests over George Floyd’s death across the nation.
“It’s a maddening and frustrating scenario,” said Ian Sams, former employee of Sen. Kamala Harris’ and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. “If [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker doesn’t turn on coverage for Joe Biden speaking in major moments at major events, there’s going to be blowback for that. You’re doing a disservice to your viewers and to the American public to not give him that visibility.”
“They should be covering those events with the same gusto,” Jess O’Connell, a longtime Democratic staffer and former CEO of the DNC, said about cable news executives’ responsibility to carry Biden events equally to Trump’s. “The challenge is that they are not necessarily as sexy as a scandal and the TV that Trump creates, but that is what got us into this mess in the first place.”
One unnamed cable executive told the Daily Beast, “A Biden campaign event just isn’t as important as stories about major businesses getting boarding up, journalists getting arrested, protesters getting gassed.”
CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker made headlines all over when he declared “I always like a challenge,” noting that when New York City recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, “New York City is going to need a very strong mayor in the aftermath of this.”
It was not, however, the first time the CNN chief had been publicly mulling a run for mayor of New York City. In fact, in 2015, “I would still think about that, yeah,” when asked if he had considered elective office; and when pressed on NYC specifically, he answered, “I would consider anything.”
However, Bloomberg News reports a Zucker ally has a different take on Zucker’s words. Zucker’s remarks “were made in jest,” the individual says, adding, Zucker “doesn’t actually plan to run.”
As things sit currently, Zucker’s CNN contract is set to expire sometime after the 2020 election. And Zucker is a savvy media man: he knows what he is doing when he says these things. So, was it a jest — or another feeler?
CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, who has been musing about running for mayor of New York City publicly since 2015, said in a New York Times interview on Sunday, more or less quite directly, that he will run for mayor of New York in 2021. Zucker’s contract as chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports and president of CNN runs through 2020.
Before noting to the NYT he didn’t want his answer to cause news, Zucker said, “New York City is going to need a very strong mayor in the aftermath of this, and I always like a challenge.”
Regarding the earlier report he was considering a mayoral run, a Zucker insider said, “Politics is something [Zucker] thinks about.”
CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker sent a memo to CNN staffers this morning, letting them know that everyone is safe who was inside the CNN Center last night during the protest. Although some of the protesters were clearly targeting CNN, (some yelled “fuck CNN,” and defaced CNN’s property), there is also an Atlanta police department precinct inside the CNN Center, which many are pointing to as the reason the protesters had their sights on CNN’s Atlanta headquarters.
According to CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter, Zucker wrote, “The CNN letters still stand proud outside the building this morning, despite the damage, and will be repaired today.” According to a source, the iconic CNN letters have already been repainted over.
“This has been a difficult week. Understandably, emotions are raw. The pain is real. All of this against the backdrop of a global pandemic that we cannot forget, either. I want to thank the entire organization for its collective sense of purpose. CNN has never been more essential. CNN has never been stronger,” Zucker concluded.
Due to the unrest overnight, latenight anchor Natalie Allen announced she wouldn’t be covering her usual CNN Newsroom shift due to the disturbances outside CNN Center and throughout Atlanta. Additionally, HLN Morning Express weatherman Bob Van Dillen commented, “Watching my workplace get trashed . . . just pray no body dies tonight in Atlanta.”
Just a week ago, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker said that some staffers wouldn’t be returning to the office in September, citing the need to reconfigure officespace “to drastically reduce our footprint in all of our workspaces.”
Very few staffers at the network are expected to return to their offices this calendar year, with just around 15% returning to in-office work by Monday, The Wrap reports, citing WarnerMedia executive vice president and chief HR officer Jim Cummings and CNN president Jeff Zucker’s plan unveiled today.
For the most part, “our operations will remain work from home,” Zucker wrote, noting a few employees would return to work in September.
“When you consider physical distancing requirements, we simply cannot put the same number of people back into our workspaces that were there before the pandemic,” he cautioned. “So we need to make some tough decisions.”
“As I have said before, our operations will primarily, across both news and sports, continue to work remotely throughout the summer. Of course, there are exceptions for some of our newsgathering, programming and production people at CNN; and, on the sports side, there will likely be changes when we have a sense of league schedules in the summer months.”
Both CNN International as well as HLN (plus TNT, TBS, and TruTV) will air “Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity, a blockbuster live golf competition headlined by golf icons Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson returning for a rematch, this time joined by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, two of the NFL’s greatest players of all time,” according to CNN in an announcement. It will air Sunday, May 24, at 3 p.m. ET.
Associated with the live telecast, WarnerMedia and the golfers will collectively make a charitable donation of $10 million to benefit COVID-19 relief. A sanctioned PGA TOUR event, it will be held at the prestigious Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida.
Jeff Zucker, chairman of WarnerMedia news and sports, said in a statement, “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unimaginable tragedy and heartbreak. We’re hopeful this event and platform will help raise meaningful funding for COVID-19 relief, while also providing a source of brief distraction and entertainment for all sports fans.”
The event commentators will include host Brian Anderson, analysts Trevor Immelman and Charles Barkley, with on-course reporters Amanda Balionis and Justin Thomas.