CNN chief Jeff Zucker didn’t mention Donald Trump’s name or utter the phrase “fake news,” but he devoted a sizable part of his Giants of Broadcasting acceptance speech today emphasizing the cable news network’s plan to hold firm amid a constant barrage from the White House.
“People from the Administration have attacked us, called us names, just for doing our jobs. But that has only emboldened us, made us stronger,” Zucker said during the New York event put on by the Library of American Broadcasting and the IRTS. “It hasn’t hurt the CNN brand in any way; in fact, it’s only enhanced it. It is our job to hold those in power accountable. … They should respect it even if they don’t like it. We have no agenda other than to report the news fairly. I have spent 30 years in the news business. There has never been a more important time.”
NBC News mainstay Andrea Mitchell, another of the day’s eclectic group of eight honorees drawn from local TV, radio, advertising and programming, was a bit more pointed in her remarks. She drew hearty applause with a callback to a Trump classic from his first months in office. “We are not the enemy of the people,” she said. Covering politics in 2017, especially on television, is a historic challenge and the veteran who has held down the beat during seven Administrations urged a more nuanced approach.
“With the potential for nuclear attacks and storms and foreign interference in our elections unfolding so rapidly that we can barely pause long enough for the latest Trump tweet, it sometimes feels like we are all suffering from a national case of attention deficit disorder,” she said. “We have to resist conventional wisdom. … as we try to disentangle a very complicated web of facts, always remember that we are not only a group of journalists and we are storytellers and as we learn the facts, those facts will inform our stories.”
Jeff Fager, exec producer of 60 Minutes, shied away from politics and reflected on his 35 years at CBS News and his stewardship of the 50-year-old magazine franchise. (Zucker lavished praise on Fager, telling him, “If only any one of our programs could be as good as the one you produce every Sunday night.”)
The creator and overseer of the longest-running prime time show, Don Hewitt, and original hosts and correspondents like Mike Wallace and Morley Safer, “are all gone, everyone who started our broadcast, on and off the air,” Fager noted. “It’s changed so much since the beginning but there are some things we kept and standard we have maintained. That hasn’t changed.”