Not my fault

“Criticism of CNBC is way out of line,” NBC head Jeff Zucker said at the BusinessWeek media summit at McGraw-Hill’s headquarters just now. “Just because someone who mocks authority says something doesn’t make it so.” He argued that “you’re already seeing a backlash” against the backlash against news media “in terms of people saying, ‘let’s stop beating the press.'” The press didn’t cause us to go to war in Iraq, he said; a general did. The press missing the financial crisis didn’t cause it. “Both are absurd,” he said.

Really? I think that says that the press has no importance and no role in public policy. Doesn’t matter if we miss the story, he’s saying. It’s not our fault. Will he take no responsibility?

Over to you, CNBC bashers.

Later: Asked whether MSNBC is tainting NBC News, Zucker says, “I’m not worried about it.”

He does kind of look like Alfred E. Newman. Without the hair.

He says the answer is that NBC News is “probably in a more dominant position against its competition than it has ever been.” It’s also smaller than it has ever been.

He says David Gregory “frankly has done a fantastic job, something we’re very proud of, and reasserted his dominance on Sunday Morning.” (Over to you, Jay Rosen.)

On media facing the internet: “Newspapers didn’t face those questions fast enough. And they weren’t honest…. We can wish this were 1987 but it’s not…. Advertising is not what it was… We have to think about the model.” He acknowledges that NBC prime time has not had a good three or four years. “Sometimes you see the world more clearly when you’re flat on your back.” That is making them question the model, “question everything.” There, we agree. “Too many media organizations, especially newspapers, weren’t willing to question the model…. including the local TV news model.”

Zucker acknowledges that he will never be No. 1 in prime time (in response to a question about the Jay Leno strategy). He’s right about the changing role of live, prime-time TV. But there again, isn’t he surrendering?

“We’re in show business and the show is important and the business is important. It was easier to be in the show when the business was easier. The business is much harder today.” Has he been drinking out of Paula Abdul’s Coke glass?

Zucker says if they don’t adapt to changing media habits of young people, “we will become the Rocky Mountain News.” The Rocky in the coal mine, it is.

Asked about his comments about analog dollars and digital pennies, he says, “I think we’re at dimes now. We’ve made some progress.”

: Later: In addition to lots of juicy comments, see the LA Times Patrick Goldstein skewer Zucker.

  • “The press didn’t cause us to go to war in Iraq, he said; a general did. The press missing the financial crisis didn’t cause it. “Both are absurd,” he said.”

    Big mainstream media is more concerned with business than journalism it seems.

  • I don’t think it’s possible to criticize CNBC too much. They hyped the market up and scared it down. They didn’t see the crash coming and they will mis-characterize any recovery Their coverage is hyper-ventilated and pretends that such a thing as instant analysis can possibly explain the economy or markets that are random, chaotic and dependent on highly complex and conflicting factors that will be deabed debated years years from now.

  • The press’ response to 9/11 was to drape themselves in the American flag and sell the Iraq war to the American people. They not only failed to report critically during the drumbeat to war, they openly participated in the dissemination of propaganda and the falsification of intelligence (see Judith Miller), attacked war critics as unpatriotic and un-American, and even helped leak the identities of CIA agents who undermined the Bush admin’s claims about Iraq’s WMD capabilities.

    General Electric, which owns NBC, is the nation’s #12 leading war profiteer — excuse me, “defense contractor.” That Zucker claims that they had no stake in pushing the war and no responsibility for failing to report critically is entirely unsurprising. I expect him to lie.

    • dsmith

      Zucker and his neocon friends over at AIPAC are also responsible for the Iraq war disappearing from the nightly news. Have you seen any stories on the nightly news covering the burden of military families doing without the husband/father for two and three years at the time or any coverage on the wounded (Physically and mentally)? Hell no!

      Last night on ABC I saw a puff piece on how well Baghdad is doing ( Now that the Shiites have purged Baghdad of the Sunni population…of course they didn’t go into that little pesky detail). The report was almost funny how for one second…one second…the reporter showed a ghetto and said, “Yes there is still poverty in Baghdad”…the next second showed a shopping area with smiling faces.

      This could be the prelude to….If we invade Iran…the same thing could happen in Tehran!

      • NotReally

        Wait–now AIPAC is responsible—through the agency of Jeff Zucker–for causing networds to reduce their coverage of the Iraq War? Wow, what an all-powerful, many-tentacled organization. Do you have any proof of this? How does AIPAC dictate to the networks what to cover? What exactly is Jeff Zucker’s connection to AIPAC? It sounds like the foil lining of your umbrella hat has worn out and the waves are getting through again.

    • And don’t forget that Jack Welch, GE CEO, ordered NBC to call the Florida election results for Bush on election eve 2000. This to make any further Gore attempts to count the votes a sore loser strategy.

  • >>Zucker says if they don’t adapt to changing media habits of young people, “we will become the Rocky Mountain News.” The Rocky in the coal mine, it is.<<

    Speaking of which, I’ve been waiting to hear what Jeff thinks of the Rocky Mountain News vets attempt with their own new model.

    While they still do this:

  • Bill

    “The press didn’t cause us to go to war in Iraq, he said; a general did. The press missing the financial crisis didn’t cause it. “Both are absurd,” he said.”

    Big mainstream media is more concerned with business than journalism it seems.

    could not have said it better myself ty

  • eric

    Has Mr. Zucker taken any sort of pay cut during the past 10 years when he drove NBC into the ground? I’m guessing no. The concept of pay related to performance? That’s so quaint.

  • invitedmedia

    there’s no reason analog dollars cannot equate to even larger digital dollars today… mr. zucker’s notion of analog dollars to digital pennies was trumpeted by big media back when to label the internet as a mode of advertising only worth pennies in hopes of maintaining the s-q.

    those digital pennies seemed to have stacked up just fine for the likes of (add your favorite PROFITABLE online enterprise here).

  • The real lesson here: We have to learn how to be good editors and consumers of information. Today’s AIG debacle (the bonus issue) is a good example. While it makes for good entertainment, it’s a diversion. Have any of the media tried to explain what AIG did? Not really…it’s technical, filled with jargon, and boring.

    So, we’ve all been dummied-down. Unless, of course, we spend a lot of time reading, watching, and observing multiple sources of information.

    And, if change really was in the air, President Obama would have a one-hour presentation to explain what happened and how to correct it. Maybe he’ll do that with Leno. Ha!

    • onceler

      Indeed, well put. People also need to start watching or reading some news sources outside of the US. Our collective perspective about all of this is pretty limited.

      Obama won’t give such a presentation, yet, because he doesn’t want to scare the living crap out of 95% of the country – which is what would happen if he explained how bad things are.

    • jeffrey smith

      All of us that read the news know exactly what AIG did and don’t need Obama to explain it to us. We understand what happened. Should have finished high school kid.

      • invitedmedia

        “All of us… know what aig did”


        maybe someone who claims to have “finished high school” should look into goldman sachs’ roll in all of this.

        to the person saying aig is simply a diversion: !!!

  • onceler

    hey, I’ve got a great idea. how about AIG uses some of its bailout $$ to buy CSNBC? really, they belong together.


    What’s absurd is how much Jeff is starting to look like Ari Fleischer!

  • JCS

    Has Mr. Zucker ever listened to Larry Kudlow? I know he is only one among many but he is so far right of reality one wonders why he is allowed to continue. How about a daily analysis of Kudlow’s remarks and a tracking of how wrong he always it? Start with yesterday.

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  • Matt

    Not to go all Olbermann on the genius, but look at these quotes:

    “Just because someone who mocks authority says something doesn’t make it so.” ”

    Reply- Just cuz some idiot says he is being mocked as an authority does not make him an authority. CNBC, MSNBC, and yes NBC news are being mocked for their journalism, not their “authority”. Respect my authority? Is Zucker Eric Cartman?

    “you’re already seeing a backlash” against the backlash against news media “in terms of people saying, ‘let’s stop beating the press.’”

    Uh, yeah, who says that? Is it the authorities?

    The press didn’t cause us to go to war in Iraq, he said; a general did. The press missing the financial crisis didn’t cause it. Both are absurd”

    This quote is quite true. However, I also did not start the war. Does that mean I am free from criticism in my actual line of work? Does that mean my doctor is free to perform transplants while drunk? Its called a non sequiter. Ask Howie Mandel about it. Or the biggest loser.

    On media facing the internet: “Newspapers didn’t face those questions fast enough.” Yeah, but they didn’t start the war. Ergo, criticism is absurd.

    Asked whether MSNBC is tainting NBC News, Zucker says, “I’m not worried about it.” Note how this is not the same as “No”.

    He’s talking out all four sides of his mouths.

  • Mainstream news media in general, whether MSNBC, CBS, Canwest, etc., all change their stories to serve their bottom line.

    They “are” responsible and deserve everything that plays out as they go bankrupt. It’s not a coincidence PEW has been reporting over the last few years consumers lost substantial trust in media.

    Journalists too are not off the hook if they think they can sit back now and whine.

    While their bosses sold out our communities they looked the other way and enabled the spread of misinformation.

    I can’t wait for the carnage to end so we can get on and not have to listen to the bitching and finger pointing.

    Exactly the same thing happened in the music industry in the late 90’s/early 2000. Major label executives tried to first accuse consumers, and then musicians for their irresponsibility and greed.

    The recent argument promoted by journalists and j-school profs that democracy will die with newspapers is ridiculous.

    Democracy will simply get better without theheavy influence of the updated news media advertising model.

  • Jim

    Old media can’t die soon enough for me. I’m sick of Zucker and other neocon news “gurus.”

    A lifelong newspaper guy, I no longer have a subscription, and I’m just about done with TV news.

  • MickeS

    So, does Zucker believe the news media has ANY role except to mindlessly disseminate information it receives? It doesn’t seem like he believes this.

    Which makes me wonder if, in the age of the Internet when information can easily be disseminated without any 3rd party involvement, there is any justification for keeping CNBC and MSNBC around unless they are enormously profitable. Are they? Otherwise, they might as well just be shut down, since their role is taken over by anonymous guys with computers.

  • James Pilant

    Is asking a news service to do its job of informing the public with accurate and timely information too much of a job for these people?

  • CNBC and other media claiming to cover business and finance pretty much dropped the ball at the mission level. It doesn’t much matter what form you use to deliver the message: The essential mission is “find out what’s going on and tell people.” That hasn’t happened. Nobody in business journalism seems to have known what was going on or, if they did, didn’t tell anyone about it. Either alternative is a big “fail,” and the reaction of the public is, however expressed or refined, based on that basic failure. The paradigm needs to change. Making the mark of success as a journalist the ability to land a self-serving interview with a corporate big shot was the wrong way to go. The mark of success as a journalist is finding out what the big shot is really up to, despite what he claims he’s up to, and then telling people.

  • dan

    And here I thought it was the Congress, not the military, that had the power to make and declare war. If the head of a network thinks that our country is governed by a military junta rather than democratic institutions, there really is a problem with the press — whether or not he is right (especially if he were right, actually).

  • If anybody hasn’t seen that video that Jim Cramer made in 2006 that Stewart referenced in his interview, you should really watch the whole thing. Cramer not only endorses the activities he’s talking about, he also talks about CNBC being an essential part of gaming the market. That part is at the very end of the video, but it’s there and I bet Stewart held back from showing it b/c he knew it would end Cramer’s career.

    Simply put, Zucker can have his opinions and but we have the videotape. :-)

  • fred fep

    When newspapers do go, there will be litle incentive for actual reporting on the ground. On the internet are mostly those that lift stories for free from wire services and newspapers putting them online. Throw away network news, you lose more. Evenually all we are left with are rumors passing as facts, and far too much opinon from everyone everywhere. No central sources will mean few will actually know what is really going on. Even fewer than now.

    The stagecoach industry didn’t go away before it was replaced by motors and trains and rolleys and good roads. If it had, the latter may have had a hard time coming about. One actually needs the replacements in place before the old goes away. Now it is mostly a product of newspapers being run and run into he ground by botomline capitalist corporate nonsense. It has mostly destroyed good radio, now news gathering will become scarce all our real news will be reported from Europe and Asia, we will be stuck with bloggers and kooks

    • dsmith

      Let me suggest Prof. Juan Cole’s website called Informed Comment and for information you will not find on any of the networks.

  • hmm

    Zucker is a HUGE whore. Of course he’s “not worried about CNBC
    tainting NBC News” because HE DOESN”T CARE whether it will or not.
    Zucker cares ONLY about delivering a profit number to GE who will then
    lie to Wall Street analysts about said profitablity and, in their turn, said
    analysts will then lie to their clients.
    A product of the newsroom himself, Zucker’s perfectly willing to crap all
    over “journalism,” “news,” and the people who watch thinking they’re getting the truth–how STUPID of them. If entertainment, deliberate lies and toadies fawing over CEOS can be fobbed off on an ignorant public as news keeps advertisers buying time–the ratings don’t matter much in cable–that’s fine with Jeff and Cramer, lacking any personal integrity himself, is happy to oblige.

  • Erica

    Look, everyone who publishes something for millions of people to view or read, has responsibility. Does one episode of MadMoney, watched by one viewer make any difference? No, not at all. But 3 years of it, watched by millions, has a massive effect. Not only on opinion, but on actions.

    The same model can be applied to the advertisements that CNBC shows during breaks. One individual ad watched by one guy makes no difference at all. But a $15MM media buy by Burger King spread over 3 months? That has a massive, absolutely measureable impact on Whopper sales. The stats are there and the math is there.

    So yes, Jon Stweart is absolutely spot-on, and he is correct to challenge in the manner than he does.

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  • Walter Abbott

    All the recent hysteria over CNBC’s reporting on the financial crisis is a bunch of bullshit. The financial problems began last fall, yet none of you newsies saw fit to say word one about it until Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer had the temerity to criticize Obama’s budgets and ‘stimulus’ plans.

    Give it a rest, guys. All this Obama worship is getting tiresome.

  • Kathryn

    Zucker doesn’t seem to have any feel for the actual core content he manages. What the heck does he bring to the table again? Does he stay in charge just because the GE corporate guys don’t know the difference?

  • muffler

    These people seem to never take a damn bit of responsibility. It’s always someone else fault or they are just misunderstood. Bunk! They know exactly what they did and are doing. We just don’t call them on it like Jon Stewart!

  • Zucker isn’t Ailes but he sure doesn’t seem to understand the concept of journalistic integrity. GE/CNBC may think it’s an entertainment division but it sells itself as news even while it’s pushing CEO propaganda/marketing without any critical inquiry.

    Jon Stewart was more probing, inquisitive, and showed more journalistic integrity in twenty minutes than Cramer has in his entire career at CNBC. From what little I’ve seen of CNBC, Jon Stewart shows more journalistic integrity in his twenty minutes four days a week than CNBC does in most of the entire week that it’s on.

    Stewart literally revealed that Cramer MANIPULATED THE MARKET in ways that appear clearly criminal. If what Cramer was/is doing isn’t criminal, maybe we need more laws.

    “More laws” might make the right wing scream that it would slow the US’s GDP growth but “more laws” could have prevented the unsustainable bubble that just wiped out trillions of wealth and left the entire planet teetering on a Greater Depression than what was created during the unregulated (“roaring”) 1920’s.

    Slow steady growth IS CONSERVATIVE. Whatever the right-wing has degenerated into is sick. Right wing ideology just gambled America’s financial future as well as gambling America’s financial supremacy on the planet.

    Right wing ideology is NOT in the interest of Americans or America.

    The bottom line is that Cramer and CNBC and ultimately a predatory right wing ideology just screwed Jon Stewart’s grandmother’s financial future (and a LOT of other grandmothers and grandfathers looking to retire on their investments) with their reckless gambles.

    While people like Zucker and right wing weasels may think that’s okay, it’s not.

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