NBC’s Jeff Zucker: Cheerleading for his cheerleaders


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If there were ever any doubt that today’s wealthy media conglomerate czars are out of touch with reality, all you have to do is listen to Jeff Zucker at this morning’s Business Week media summit. The NBC Universal CEO went out of his way to blast Jon Stewart’s ongoing dissection of CNBC’s ludicrously amped-up coverage of the stock market train wreck, saying that ‘just because someone who mocks authority says something doesn’t mean it’s true.’ Of course, that’s the exact definition of being out of touch: When everyone else is looking at your financial network and seeing a bunch of ratings-obsessed charlatans who, though they surely knew better, talked up a host of terminally ill companies that were about to collapse, you look at your financial network and tell a media conference that ‘CNBC is a spectacular organization that’s done a tremendous job.’

The next thing you know, Zucker will be saying Ben Silverman is doing a wonderful job of running NBC too.


What I found especially appalling about Zucker’s remarks was his faux populism. Here’s a guy who travels on a corporate jet, whose salary, bonuses and stock options are probably right up there with most of AIG’s bonus babies (Zucker doesn’t have to disclose his compensation, but his predecessor in the job, Robert Wright, earned $17.8 million in 2006), yet he has the nerve to act like he’s in the same boat with the rest of us, telling the audience, ‘Everybody wants to point a finger--I’m upset that my 401(k) isn’t what it was too.... But to suggest that the business media is responsible for what’s going on now is absurd.’

BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis, who was at the media summit, has a great post up now saying that Zucker also made the specious argument that blaming CNBC for missing the financial crisis is like blaming the press for prompting the U.S. to go to war in Iraq. ‘Both are absurd,’ Zucker said. Actually, what’s really absurd is Zucker’s imagining that CNBC did a good job. What the network really did was help fan a gigantic financial bubble, even when Jim Cramer and its other ‘experts’--as Stewart has repeatedly pointed out--were savvy enough to know that the companies they covered, and often touted, were involved in all sorts of shady conduct.

Zucker should be profusely apologizing and promising to make things right, not defending CNBC’s hapless carnival act.