Producer Zucker to Return Full Time to NBC's 'Today' : Television: Post- Gartner fallout continues at network's news operations; Zucker was splitting time between 'Nightly News' and the morning show.


In further post-Michael Gartner moves at NBC News, Jeff Zucker, the 27-year-old executive producer of "NBC Nightly News" and the "Today" show, will return full time to the morning program, starting Monday.

Zucker, who had been running "Today" since January, 1992, in January had been given the additional job of producing NBC's evening newscast. He said from the outset that he would give up one job if he found he could not do both.

"It became clear in the last couple of weeks that I had to make a decision," Zucker said in an interview Tuesday. He had been working 16-hour days.

Meanwhile, sources at NBC said that Jack Welch, chairman of network parent General Electric, recently met with ABC News President Roone Arledge to discuss the possibility of Arledge succeeding Gartner as president of NBC News. Gartner stepped down two weeks ago in the wake of controversy over a staged car-truck crash on "Dateline NBC."

NBC and Arledge declined comment. ABC sources considered it unlikely that Arledge, 61, would make such a move, although it would certainly be a challenge to help rebuild the beleaguered NBC News division.

Arledge, who earlier headed ABC's sports division, is credited with making ABC News both the most profitable and the highest-rated broadcast news division. The line of his succession as president of ABC News was recently established with the naming of Paul Friedman, the former executive producer of "World News Tonight," as executive vice president.

As for Zucker, he had been under pressure from both the anchors and the staffs of "Nightly News" and "Today" to devote his full energy to one program or the other.

"I realized that I wasn't ready to leave what I'd started on the 'Today' show," Zucker said, "although I was enjoying 'Nightly' very much. I especially enjoyed working with Tom (Brokaw), but eventually he said he thought I needed to make a choice between the two programs."

"As someone who has anchored 'Today' and 'Nightly News' simultaneously for short stints, I worried about the strain being placed on Jeff and both programs," Brokaw said in a statement. "So when he came to me about returning solely to 'Today,' I was disappointed but not surprised. 'Nightly News' has a strong, dedicated staff, and until a permanent replacement for Jeff is arranged, we'll continue to produce a high-quality, competitive program."

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