Last week, Zucker announced his immediate departure, claiming he broke company policy by failing to acknowledge a consensual relationship he had with Allison Gollust, a deputy executive who is remaining at the network.
Numerous reports alleged several CNN stars were upset about the network shakeup at bureau meetings in Washington D.C. and New York City. But some couldn’t contain their emotions on-air like daytime anchor Alisyn Camerota, media correspondent Brian Stelter and primetime anchor Don Lemon, who choked up while offering a eulogy-like message to the fallen network president.
“Zucker, a longtime TV man, was their leader, their anchor, their cheerleader, their savior, their rudder, their therapist, their news muse and their ATM,” Parker wrote on Wednesday. “It’s soul-crushing — to maybe a Muppet or two — when elites get weepy over losing a bestie while the country is on the verge of collapse from Covid; inflation; worker, food and supply shortages; gun violence; and, not incidentally, the widening gap between rich and poor. Oh, and rising tensions with Russia.”
Parker, a former CNN anchor herself, asked, “Whatever happened to ‘no crying in baseball'” as a newsroom principle, recalling she “burst into tears (in my office)” when the CNN president who hired her was fired “because I knew in that instant that my own future at the network was doomed.”
“I cried a lot for good reason over the next several months, but I didn’t whimper on TV, for heaven’s sake, the way some did over Zucker,” Parker wrote. “It was enough to make me wonder what happened to CNN’s spine. I can surmise only that Zucker is what happened. He was certainly beloved by those who prospered on his watch. Maybe he was the best boss anyone ever had. But he also guided the network away from the ramrod-straight, just-the-facts news programming that CNN founder Ted Turner had envisioned and toward a more personalized, interpretive style of reporting that came with a price in a deeply divided nation.”
“Not all CNN shows went this way, I hasten to add, but enough did that the audience kept slipping away. At the start of 2022, CNN averaged 548,000 viewers during the week of Jan. 3, an 80 percent decline from the same period in 2021,” she noted.
The Post columnist summarized CNN’s “Zucker chapter” was a reminder of “the yawning gap between the way average Americans and the media elite live,” writing “anchors and many correspondents are typically comfortable millionaires who live in a pristine bubble, communing with colleagues and other elites, escaping to the Hamptons, Nantucket and other swanky watering holes to avoid germs and attend gatherings where their elbows are unlikely to ever bump into the sort of people who voted for Donald Trump.”
“Many in my business don’t understand why Joe Rogan’s podcast remains so popular or why Fox News continues to clobber CNN in ratings,” Parker added. “But this is how a great outlet loses track of an audience that once ate out of its hand — and is the very last to know.”