Accuracy in Media

Soledad O'BrienSoledad O’Brien, who is profiled in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, is betting that new CNN boss Jeff Zucker will not resort to reality shows to shore up the network’s sagging ratings.

O’Brien also seemed unconcerned that she would be replaced in her morning slot by Erin Burnett, and is thrilled that she will again be working with Zucker, who was her boss at NBC.

NYT: Jeff Zucker, who rose to the top of NBC Universal after producing “Today,” was just named head of CNN Worldwide, and he reportedly plans to immediately focus on your morning show, which is behind in the ratings. How scared are you?

O’Brien: Not at all. He was my boss years ago when I worked at the “Today” show. I’m absolutely thrilled to have him back.

NYT: But can you seriously be so calm, considering that The New York Post reported that Zucker’s considering moving Erin Burnett to your slot?

O’Brien: Listen, I have been doing this gig for a while. People go crazy with speculation every time there’s a shift in leadership. I can’t comment on every rumor, but so far I’ve read reports on me, Anderson, Piers, Ann Curry and Erin Burnett, and all that’s clear to me is that somebody’s busy dialing Page Six.

NYT: When you were weekend co-host of “Today,” you said that the recognition you got for softer stories, like one about a trapeze school, felt “a little hollow.” Would you be willing to go lighter now?

O’Brien: I’m fairly confident that I’m not going to be cooking salmon and doing fashion shows on CNN.

NYT: But Zucker has said that CNN is not only competing with MSNBC and Fox News but also with History and the Discovery Channel, which produce shows like “Pawn Stars” and “American Chopper.”

O’Brien: If you’ve ever seen “American Chopper,” you know they have created something that is riveting. I don’t think he’s saying we’re going to do “American Chopper II.” I think he’s saying we are going to assume that everybody is our competition. He knows how to win.

NYT: Your strength is hard news, doing the homework. I’m not convinced these traits are as prized as they once were.

O’Brien: I bet you $5,000 that CNN is always going to be a place for that. I have four kids to get through college, but I can cover that.

NYT: I don’t make TV money. But even though betting has been frowned upon at The Times, I’ll wager $750 that in a year CNN will look much more like “Ice Road Truckers.”

O’Brien: You are so completely wrong. I will take that bet, and I will buy dinner. You should come with a check.

We’ll have to wait and see who is right, The Times or O’Brien. Zucker’s experience is with lighter fare, so there is a good chance that we will see more fluff. But to what degree is anybody’s guess.

On a completely unrelated note, this marks my 4,000th  blog post on the AIM site since 2004. When I first began I would write about whatever struck my fancy or what was bothering me at the time—like hitting a deer with my car, or the battle over public financing of the Washington Nationals stadium. I gradually moved on to critiquing the news and the latest instances of media bias. I have found a rich target in Chris Matthews, much like my father did with Dan Rather in the early days of AIM. It’s been fun and educational for me and I hope it has been that and more for you. Thank’s for your support as I blog on to 5,000.

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