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Jeff Zucker on Cable News Rivals: 'CNN Gets Held to a Higher Standard'

Jeff Zucker CNN - P 2013
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Jeff Zucker

The new head of CNN also defends the network against the charge that anchors didn't correct a mistaken Boston Marathon report quickly enough.

Jeff Zucker inferred Wednesday that he might be willing to cede the political commentary ground to MSNBC on the left and the Fox News Channel on the right, while CNN focuses on “much more” and is  “held to a higher standard.”

“We’re trying to cover the news. … Our competition now is two political channels that actually has left most of the actual news coverage to the side,” said Zucker, who took over as head of CNN in November.

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MSNBC and Fox News, Zucker said, are “covering events in Washington from a political point of view. That leaves the news for us to cover. That doesn’t mean we can’t cover politics, but politics is only one part of the news.”

He added: “Those two channels are covering political news. We’re covering politics and much more, and I think that’s the opening for us.”

Zucker, speaking Wednesday at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.,  also praised the educational show Parts Unknown, which he said brought 4.5 million new viewers to CNN.

When Wall Street Journal technology writer Walt Mossberg criticized CNN for taking too long to correct a mistaken report that an arrest had been made in the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing, Zucker struck back.

“That’s completely unfair. We made a mistake in Boston where we reported there had been an arrest. In fact, we corrected that mistake with 45 minutes,” he said, noting that other outlets made the same error but took longer to own up to it.

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The Boston Globe, who I think will probably win the Pulitzer Prize for its Boston coverage, actually didn’t correct it for hours,” Zucker said, also throwing Fox News into the mix.

“CNN gets held to a higher standard,” he said.

“We didn’t slander anybody; we didn’t cause any public harm in doing so. We didn’t, you know, lead a country into war with this mistake,” he said about the faulty arrest report.  “You know who got it? You know who understood that we made a mistake and we acknowledged it? The audience.”

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com