Former CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker and the Loss of Trust in Media

By Brandon Leonard

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker recently announced his resignation from CNN and WarnerMedia. The resignation is the result of failing to disclose he was in a romantic relationship with CNN executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust. 

The resignation, according to Zucker himself, came about amidst the investigation into Chris Cuomo, former CNN presenter and the brother of former-governor Andrew Cuomo.

The relationship itself was described as “consensual” by Zucker and CNN anchors who have spoken on the resignation. Although publicly the relationship was denied by both parties involved, former CNN employees note that the relationship was an “open secret” within the news agency. 

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash has gone so far as to state that “the punishment didn’t fit the crime” when it came to Zucker’s resignation.

An ongoing theory is that Zucker’s resignation instead came directly from the Chris Cuomo scandal rather than due to his secretive relationship. Former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, was advised by his brother during his legal battle against various sexual harassment allegations that ultimately led to the end of Cuomo’s tenure as governor.

Reportedly, both Zucker and Gollust were advisors to Cuomo at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic alongside bringing Cuomo exclusively onto the network. Gollust was the communications director for then-Governor Cuomo prior to joining CNN.

With the loss of Jeff Zucker coming shortly after the removal of Chris Cuomo, CNN is left in an ambiguous position. CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter has gone on to say that, despite Zucker’s resignation, CNN will not be going anywhere. 

In a public statement, he affirmed CNN’s mission and denied that the company “is only defined by the most provocative comments of its highest-rated hosts.”

There is some evidence of turmoil outside of complex corporate politics within CNN. Notably, the loss of over 90% of its viewership, with CNN having gone from 2.7 million viewers during the week of Jan. 3 2021, to only 548,000 viewers during the same week this year. 

Although 2021 had some of the highest records for viewership, CNN saw a gradual decline throughout the year.

“Almost all mainstream news outlets got spikes in viewers and readers during the Trump presidency,” said David Wheeler, University of Tampa associate professor of journalism and CNN opinion writer.  

With COVID stretching into its second year, viewers of CNN could simply have grown tired of the pandemic.

“Americans’ trust in almost all institutions is at an all-time low,” said Wheeler. “The media has ignored public opinion on things like lockdowns and restrictions. So they haven’t done their job when it comes to asking and probing why half the country feels the way they do.”

CNN Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcy said as much on a segment with Brian Stelter where he said the media was “very out of touch with people.”

According to Zachary Jones, senior English major, his trust in prominent mainstream media channels is nonexistent. The majority of his distrust comes from how the media’s “bias and views in general [stem] from the system we’re currently living in.”

“I think it’s very important to consider a publication’s political and social climate to fully grasp where your information is coming from,” said Andrew Staab, senior creative writing major 

Whether or not CNN will recover from the loss of viewers, especially in the wake of this new scandal, remains to be seen. 

“MSNBC viewers still watch MSNBC despite a scandal happening within upper management,” said Wheeler. “CNN viewers still watch CNN despite scandals happening within upper management. Fox News viewers still watch Fox News despite scandals within upper management.”

Photo Courtesy of The Independent

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