‘Running the Today Show Was the Best Job I Ever Had’

By Chris Ariens 

Adweek’s annual Young Influentials issue is out this week, where we celebrate content producers, entertainers and marketers who are shaping the industry. Among the honorees, SNL’s Kate McKinnon, ABC’s svp of digital ad sales Pooja Midha, and our cover star, actor, writer and musician Donald Glover.

As part of the issue, for our Look Back column, we featured a one-time Young Influential. Scroll down for the story:


Search the term “wunderkind” and several entries about Jeff Zucker will no doubt turn up.

The ink had barely dried on Zucker’s bachelor’s degree from Harvard when he joined NBC as an Olympics researcher ahead of the 1988 Seoul Summer Games. In 1989, he parlayed that into a gig on the Today show, and was named its youngest-ever executive producer in 1992. He was 26.

“Looking back on it, I can’t believe they gave me the job,” Zucker told Adweek. “I lived and breathed every aspect of the show 24/7, and I loved every minute of it. I was young, and I made some mistakes, and doing so in the bright spotlight of media attention wasn’t always easy. But I did my best to learn from them, and not make the same mistake twice.”

For a couple months in 1993 the ambitious Zucker was executive producer of both Today and NBC Nightly News. In his early 30s, a setback. He was diagnosed with Colon cancer, twice. “I’m totally confident that everything will be OK,” he told his Today troops after that second diagnosis in 1999. It would be.

A year later he headed West to oversee NBC Entertainment. In 2003 he was also given the reigns of NBC News and cable. In 2007 he reached the top: CEO. He was 41.

Zucker’s tenure at NBC lasted until 2010 after Comcast acquired NBCU. After overseeing the launch of Katie Couric‘s short-lived talk show, Zucker returned to his news roots and was named president of CNN Worldwide in 2012.

“I have said many times that running the Today show was the best job I ever had,” Zucker said.

This story first appeared in the October 3, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.