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Sun Aug 18, 2019, 12:29 PM

CNN-Trump and the Disastrous Detroit Debates

Terrific piece from the Detroit Metro Times about the symbiotic relationship between Trump and CNN (Jeff Zucker) and why the Detroit Debates sucked...

..."The road to the White House in 2020 runs through Michigan," CNN wrote in one of the color-by-numbers, parachute journalism-style digital articles it published ahead of the two nights of debates to help set the stage.

The CNN rep said the network worked with the DNC to find a suitable venue, and the 5,000-seat Fox Theatre was ultimately chosen for its telegenic beauty and its availability. Producing an event like this second round of Democratic 2020 debates the first round was held in June in Miami, and 10 more are planned before November 2020 is apparently a mammoth undertaking. At the orientation, which mostly functioned to give photographers and videographers a chance to calibrate their equipment to the theater's lighting, another CNN rep boasted that transforming the Fox into a debate stage took a crew of more than 100 people laboring over eight days. The venue was outfitted with more than 500 additional lights, several thousand feet of cables, and more than 25 cameras across the event's entire footprint, which included the theater, the next-door Hockeytown Cafe (which served as the media "spin room" ), and an anchor set for pundits located across the street in front of Comerica Park, delivered in nine 53-foot semi trucks.

In many ways, Detroit's theater and sports district was the perfect venue for CNN's debate.

That's because despite Trump's repeated jab at CNN as "fake news," the outlet has arguably done more to deliver us the real estate tycoon-turned-reality TV star president than even the far-right Fox News or Breitbart. It was Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide, who greenlighted The Apprentice when he was at the helm of NBC Entertainment in 2004.

"That show, more than anything, reversed Trump's fortunes, recasting a local tabloid villain as the people's prime-time billionaire," New York Times Magazine reported in a 2017 profile of Zucker. ( "CNN Had a Problem. Donald Trump Solved It." ) "And it was Zucker who, as president of CNN, broadcast the procession of made-for-TV events the always news-making interviews; the rallies; debates; the 'major policy addresses' that never really were that helped turn Trump into the Republican front-runner at a time when few others took his candidacy seriously." According to NYT Magazine, "CNN was the first major news organization to give Trump's campaign prolonged and sustained attention."

Following the success of The Apprentice, Trump reportedly returned the favor, lobbying for CNN to hire Zucker in 2012 after he was fired from NBC following Comcast's purchase of NBC Universal. And by the time Trump announced his presidential campaign in 2015, the network was all in. For a while, Trump was happy to appear on the network, and the network was happy to give Trump countless hours of airtime even if it just meant broadcasting an empty podium at a Trump rally to build suspense. Another Zuckerism birthed during the 2016 political campaign was the idea to treat it like a giant sporting event. A sports fan, Zucker reportedly looked to ESPN for ideas on how to cover the 2016 campaign: that meant flashy 3-D graphics, countdown timers, and chattering talking heads to analyze the campaigns' play-by-plays, all feeding into CNN's never-ending 24-hour news cycle...


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Reply CNN-Trump and the Disastrous Detroit Debates (Original post)
LessAspin Aug 18 OP
DavidDvorkin Aug 18 #1
LessAspin Aug 18 #2

Response to LessAspin (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2019, 02:02 PM

1. Disastrous?

Is that why Trump is losing to the top four Dems?

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Response to DavidDvorkin (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 18, 2019, 03:07 PM

2. Is that because of the CNN debates?

Or in spite of the way CNN ran the debates?

To the extent that the debates in Detroit moved the needle at all. I would argue more of the latter.

Which sort of misses the point of the piece anyway. CNN can and should do better. I'm glad the Democratic Party has a field of candidates to pick from that it might not matter.

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