David Zurawik Has ‘Lost Faith’ in ’60 Minutes’ and CNN

By Merrill Knox 

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Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik delivers blistering commentary on the state of the news media in his latest column. “After decades of writing about television and media, this is the year that I have lost faith in two TV news institutions in which I have long believed: ’60 Minutes’ and CNN,” he writes. “…I used to believe in and ferociously defend what I thought of as the high end of TV news. But I don’t have a fast answer anymore as to where TV viewers should turn for trustworthy information.”

Zurawik writes that his faith in “60 Minutes” began eroding after the 2008 election, noting that in multiple interviews with President Obama, Steve Kroft allowed the President to “control the conversation.”

The newsmagazine that debuted in 1968 had long played this kind of softball game when it came to celebrity profiles, but not with a president who was regularly using the telecast as a political tool. To me, that’s as serious an abrogation of journalistic duty as there is — especially when you are one of the 10 most popular shows on TV with an audience that regularly tops 10 million viewers a night.

[…] The one-after-another sequence of mistakes in the past couple of months suggests something deeper is now at play — a senior management team that has lost its way and has stopped listening to anyone outside the bunker. Barring any more Benghazi-like debacles, the ratings will probably hold for “60 Minutes.” But not my faith in its journalism. That’s gone.

As for CNN, Zurawik directs his criticism at CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, who took the helm of the network this year:

Outside of hiring Jake Tapper away from ABC News and giving him a weekday show at 4 p.m., Zucker has been a disappointment. His prime-time lineup is a mess with little or no consistency, no discernible standards and no flow from show to show.

And the one early-evening program he introduced, a new version of “Crossfire” featuring fake debates between such Washington types as former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and one-time Obama spin doctor Stephanie Cutter, couldn’t be more wrong for this moment in American life. At a time when Washington is hated for the gridlock caused by left-right fights between self-serving politicians, Zucker introduces a nightly show featuring some of the poster people responsible for that profound discontent.