Dowd Takes Low Road in Bashing Zucker

NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker is a big fat target right now, what with his best-laid plans for the network’s latenight lineup publicly unraveling. But I’m still mystified that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd thinks it’s fair to anonymously quote what she describes as a “honcho at another network” trashing him, which at the very least violates the paper’s standards for news.

Here’s the passage: “Zucker is a case study in the most destructive media executive ever to exist,” said a honcho at another network. “You’d have to tell me who else has taken a once-great network and literally destroyed it.”

Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement. But to lob it from the safety of anonymity is, quite simply, gutless, and so is quoting it under those terms.

Columnists obviously have wide latitude, and Dowd loves to weigh in on pop-culture matters, often veering out of her lane, as it were, to do so. But in this piece, she’s accomplished what many in Hollywood would currently have deemed near-impossible — giving them reason to take the side of Jeff Zucker.

NBC Latenight, Part Deux: Among the ancillary aspects of the latenight derby is the rest of the media’s fascination with the story, so much so that ink-stained wretches — including not-exactly-camera-ready types such as myself — are suddenly in high demand to talk about it.

In just the last few days, I’ve been interviewed by KABC-TV, KNBC-TV, AP TV, KNX-AM and Wall Street Journal Radio. (Even the WSJ radio features squiggly line drawings, don’t ask me how.) The New York Times’ Bill Carter was on “Larry King Live.” TV Guide’s Stephen Battaglio chatted with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, and so on.

Since the parties aren’t currently talking, the TV folks want us to play Carnac the Magnificent. At least three of the interviews I’ve done have included the question, “What’s going to happen?”

And the odd part is, when you have a camera and microphone shoved into your face, you feel sort of obligated to guess.

All told, it’ll be good news for television when this whole thing is all over. They can’t cue the Olympic theme soon enough.

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