“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.