William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






WISE MOVE? – AT 9:28 A.M. ET:  One of the major questions in journalism today is:  What will Jeff Zucker do with CNN?  He's the new head of that struggling outfit, having come from very high positions in both news and entertainment at NBC. 

By all accounts Zucker is a bright guy.  Whether he has the right judgment is another story entirely.  I like the fact that he recruited the superb Jake Tapper from ABC.  Tapper is a fine reporter who plays it down the middle.  He's one of the few members of the White House press corps who has asked questions above the junior-high-school level.

But I have serious questions about Zucker's latest move.  From the New York Post:

ABC News’s Chris Cuomo is defecting to CNN — and will take on “Today” and “Good Morning America” with a revamped new morning show he’ll host alongside the network’s Erin Burnett, Page Six has learned. We hear that new CNN chief Jeff Zucker has succeeded in signing Cuomo, who co-hosts “20/20” with Elizabeth Vargas and is also ABC’s chief legal correspondent and the brother of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. We first reported that Zucker was eyeing Cuomo and has been “looking for an anchor he can basically make the centerpiece of the network.” He has also poached ABC’s senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper. And, as we previously reported, Zucker also has his eye on former “Today” co-host Ann Curry, who is still tied to an NBC contract but has been stopped from doing live interviews. We also hear Zucker has been scouting top print and digital reporters in Los Angeles to beef up CNN’s Hollywood reporting. Reps for CNN and Cuomo were not available for comment last night. 

COMMENT:  The Cuomo thing worries me.  He's established a good record at ABC, but he is the brother of Governor Andrew Cuomo, a probable contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.  That's a little too close for comfort for my taste.  Can Chris Cuomo really claim to be neutral?  Will anyone believe him?  If he were a staff reporter he could be sent out on a non-political beat for the campaign.  But if he's CNN's main anchor, what then? 

Now, and this is pure speculation, Zucker might be thinking that Cuomo's relationship with a possible president is a big plus, and will draw audience.  He might be right.  But at what price?

CNN's problem is not lack of pizazz, as some claim.  Its problem is that it claims that it's a neutral network, but is really a liberal network.  It has driven away a good chunk of its audience as a result.  People do, after time, recognize spin when they see it, and they see it too often on CNN.

I'd like to know where CNN will be a year from now.  We wish them well, but only if they face their real problems.

January 29, 2013