Zucker wakes up every day at 5:15 a.m., without the help of an alarm clock or coffee. When I met him outside his Upper East Side apartment building early one morning in late February, he had been up for a couple of hours, watching the morning shows and reading the papers online. Even when he was working in Hollywood, Zucker was a news junkie; former colleagues at NBC remember him keeping one eye on cable news during pitch meetings, a habit that didn’t always endear him to agents and writers.
That night, Trump would be delivering his first address to Congress. As we rode through Central Park in the back of a black Escalade toward CNN’s offices, Zucker told me he was worried that CNN wasn’t giving the event the attention it deserved. He showed me an email that he wrote to his morning and daytime hosts and producers at 6:41 a.m. “I think we are underplaying how big a day this is from Trump,” it concluded. “Gets another shot to start again.”
Zucker’s predecessor was a CNN lifer named Jim Walton, who worked out of the network’s longtime home in Atlanta. Walton was more businessman than newsman; employees and former employees don’t recall him having a hand in editorial decisions. Zucker’s fingerprints are on almost everything CNN does. Over the course of the weeks I spent with him, he was constantly thumbing his Blackberry, emailing producers and correspondents with suggestions and feedback. Walton rarely attended the daily 9 a.m. news meeting; Zucker presides over it. As the network’s different departments and shows run through their preliminary plans for…
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