Feb 3, 2022 - Economy & Business

Misbehaving media men finally prove they aren't invincible

Jeff Zucker
Jeff Zucker. Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

In the past few years, the leaders of CNN, CBS, Fox News and others have all been forced to resign in the wake of public scandals, pointing to how the news media struggles with its own accountability.

Why it matters: In almost all of those instances, staffers said they weren't surprised by the conduct, but that their seemingly invincible bosses were finally brought down for behaviors that were open secrets.

Details: CNN boss Jeff Zucker's resignation Wednesday, prompted by a previously undisclosed relationship with a longtime senior colleague, shocked even top executives, CNN sources told Axios.

  • The relationship with Allison Gollust, CNN EVP and chief marketing officer, was common knowledge amongst many media insiders. RadarOnline published a story on Zucker’s relationship in early January.
  • Gollust reported directly to Zucker, sources told Axios. CNN parent company WarnerMedia's policy prohibits relationships with those you hire or supervise.

Reality check: Zucker’s failure to disclose his relationship with a subordinate — while a leadership and judgment failure — wasn't a crime. The relationship with Gollust was consensual.

The big picture: Zucker's resignation comes on the heels of a series of high-profile scandals that have rocked the TV news industry in recent years.

  • Roger Ailes resigned as chairman and CEO of Fox News in 2016 after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against him by former Fox news anchor Gretchen Carlson.
  • Les Moonves was forced to step down as chairman, president, and CEO of CBS in 2018 after reports revealed multiple allegations of misconduct against the television veteran.
  • John Skipper resigned as president of ESPN and co-chair of Disney Media Networks in 2017 following an extortion plot related to his cocaine use.

What's next: Zucker's scandal puts CNN's parent company WarnerMedia, and Discovery — with which it's soon set to merge — in a difficult position.

  • A former producer and news junkie, Zucker was a very hands-on boss and had close relationships with many of the network's top anchors and producers.
  • He had been overseeing the creation of CNN's new streaming service, CNN+, which is expected to launch this quarter.
  • Zucker was expected to have a key leadership role in the newly combined company, which will be led by his close friend Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
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