CNN chief Jeff Zucker patted himself on the back again Friday — this time in re the amount of time his network has spent covering the George Zimmerman murder trial, instead of covering the coup in Egypt at the height of that unrest. “A bunch of bunk” is how he described the nicking his network has received at the hands of industry navel-lint gazers. “I feel increasingly comfortable and confident that we got it in the right balance,” Zucker said this morning at the IESE Business School, as reported by the AP. Industry critics are unused to the likes of Zucker at CNN; he’s a master of promotion, and this marks the second time he’s publicly patted himself on the back while critics howl, since he took over at CNN six months ago. Last time was during the network’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, during which the network suffered one of its biggest embarrassments ever when John King incorrectly reported an arrest had been made.
Last week, as the Egypt crisis came to a head, CNN International focused almost entirely on that situation while CNN domestically stayed laser-focused on the murder trial of Zimmerman, a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer. CNN’s coverage continued Friday, and when the jury began deliberations, the network boasted that its Martin Savidge scored the first in-depth interview with Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lead defense attorney, in which he discussed why he took the case, his first impressions upon meeting Zimmerman, “and his thoughts on race and its effects on the case.” CNN has done well, ratings-wise, with Zimmerman coverage — though not as well, naysayers note, as the cabler did in the second quarter in some dayparts.One of the industry pundits blasting Zucker is a former exec at the cable news network — which is pretty rich, given that CNN was hemorrhaging viewers when Zucker inherited it Sid Bedingfield, now teaches journalism at the University of South Carolina and wrote online that he worries CNN’s Zimmerman coverage might mark a turning point in a move toward tabloid TV. Apparently he missed the full day CNN spent recently on the disabled cruise “poop ship,” whose bathrooms had stopped working, as it limped into port. Bedingfield appears also to have missed CNN’s pre-Zucker coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial in 1994 — which is surprising since the guy worked there for nearly two decades — and the rescue of Baby Jessica, who was stuck in that well in Texas in 1987 not long after Bedingfield joined the cable news network.
Another industry navel-lint gazer, Jay Rosen of New York University, recently got a lot of mileage blasting CNN for turning into Entertainment Tonight and turned into TV that “occupies your attention, not for a purpose but merely for a while.” Rosen said he’s done covering CNN — and even wrote a very long piece about how done he is. We’ll hold him to that promise.