Zucker Jabs Competition: ‘CNN Held to a Different Standard…People Come to Us For Facts’


The moment that the Manchester bombing story broke, CNN was in the middle of a panel discussion arguing the political motivations behind the firing of James Comey. Before CNN shifted gears to live news coverage, a predictable set of critics lit into what they saw as CNN’s apparent scoring of political points over covering the news. Former Mediaite contributor Joe Concha went so far as to breathlessly call it “media malfeasance” while on Tonight with Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

And it did seem a bit off to watch a re-hashed debate on the politics of President Trump’s firing of James Comey while other outlets were breathlessly covering the events in Manchester. But as facts became clearer, and Anderson Cooper came on to host the 8PM hour, CNN’s coverage effectively turned wall-to-wall on Manchester, and viewers desire to learn more about the most recent terrorist attack was instantly sated.

But the criticism begged a question to which we sought an answer from CNN head Jeff Zucker on whether the network was ignoring a big, breaking news story, choosing instead to focus on the politics of the day.

“We’re not in a race to be first. We’re in a race to be right,” Zucker told Mediaite regarding the gear-shift between political panel discourse and live news coverage. “CNN is held to a different standard than other cable networks that focus primarily on opinion,” adding “People come to us for facts, and there is no room for error with facts.”

Translation? We do news, they do opinion.

CNN has long branded itself the channel that viewers have reliably turned to for news coverage on the “big” and breaking stories, while also providing breaking reports on the politics of the day. But like nearly every other media outlet during the Trump administration, CNN has enjoyed a sharp increase in ratings lately in part due to the ubiquitous panel discussions that viewers cannot seem to get enough of.  And CNN’s ability to shift between the two very different types of programming can, at times, present challenges, but Zucker argues shows the network’s flexibility

Regarding the 10 minute timeframe between the story breaking and covering it live, Zucker added “It matters that we get it right, and we take our time to make sure we get it right.”

All the networks would likely make this claim, and keep in mind that Fox News had the highest ratings by far of the coverage of Manchester bombing.

CNN hopes that its current place among the three cable news channels has evolved, that it is no longer simply a place for big news coverage — as it was a decade ago — nor is it a place where almost every program offers comfort food opinions designed to reinforce viewers beliefs.

CNN is not the ratings leader, and they’ve still got a ways to go before they catch up with Fox News (though they are at times even with or better than MSNBC.) Their full-throated discussions (shouting matches) on the various sides of the nascent Trump era have translated to a big spike in ratings. But CNN’s brand is the “most trusted name in news” and according to Zucker, for them to maintain that its okay to be late to the game as long as they get it right.

And it’s also okay to do a little trash talking about your rivals.

Note — this article has been edited since publishing to properly attribute a quote to Mr. Concha and not Tucker Carlson.

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