CNN’s Jeff Zucker Announces ‘New and Expanded Race Team’

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Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Turner

CNN’s Jeff Zucker on Monday sent out a memo announcing a “new and expanded race team” as part of the network’s broader effort to ensure race coverage remains a “permanent part of our journalism.”

The CNN Worldwide president sent a memo to staff on Monday detailing the “new and expanded” race team, which he said will ensure that race coverage continues to be a permanent part of their newsroom.

Zucker praised CNN’s past coverage, describing it as “powerful” and “emotional” and crediting it with helping to “shed a light on the growing movement against institutional racism.”

“Today, I am pleased to announce that we are making an even more significant, sustained commitment to ensure race coverage is a permanent part of our journalism,” he said in the memo, obtained by TVNewser.

“Many talented journalists around the organization work on or around race,” he continued, praising Sara Sidner, Mallory Simon, John Blake, Abby Phillip, and Brandon Tensley, and “dozens of CNN journalists who regularly report out stories on this beat across Digital, Newsgathering, our contributors, and beyond.”

“Race touches every aspect of our lives, and therefore every area of our coverage,” he said. “That work will continue. It must.”

“In that spirit, we are pleased to share the news of a new and expanded race team, which will contribute to all CNN platforms,” he announced.

“This team will build on what so many do already at CNN and will provide the needed structure to cover this beat with more focus and force,” he continued.

The team, per the memo, will “break news and cover the stories and conversations around race,” including what Zucker called “the systemic racism that the majority of Americans now acknowledge exists.”

Coverage will include data, polls, and “how race is intertwined with inequality in business, politics, sports, media, housing, healthcare, and education.”

The focus will also be directed to the “still-present signals and symbols of racism,” Zucker said, announcing that Delano Massey will head up the “new and expanded” team.

Per the memo:

This team is not a silo for all race coverage, but it is a center and a beacon to enable us to do all the work there is to do in the most timely, relevant way we can for audiences across all platforms. This enhanced team and structure will provide a more effective “air traffic control” and clearinghouse for green lighting, assigning resources and advocating for more strategic placement on all our platforms so these stories have a powerful impact.

Delano Massey will be the leader of this new beat. Delano joined CNN recently from the AP, where he was the leader of the race and ethnicity team. He will also continue to run the team covering the Justice Department. Delano will report to Matthew for newsgathering and into Cathy for digital priorities. The three of them will collaborate closely and make sure these stories reach and serve audiences across the network.

Additionally, the CNN chief said the network is “formalizing a structure” to increase its coverage on policing in America. Specifically, “the power that law enforcement has, how they wield it, and the full view of policing as seen from individuals and communities who value, fear or question their authority.”

“As journalists, we all have a responsibility to accurately tell the stories of our world,” Zucker added. “These new teams are committed to doing just that, building on all the work others have done and will continue to do.”

Critics have credited CNN with fanning the flames of racial unrest in the weeks following George Floyd’s death. President Trump has also taken aim at CNN, specifically, over its coverage of the violent unrest across the country.

“If you watch Fake News @CNN or MSDNC, you would think that the killers, terrorists, arsonists, anarchists, thugs, hoodlums, looters, ANTIFA & others, would be the nicest, kindest most wonderful people in the Whole Wide World,” Trump said last month.

“No, they are what they are – very bad for our Country!” he exclaimed:

Last week, CNN published a piece detailing “everyday words and phrases that have racist connotations,” contending that many phrases are “so entrenched that Americans don’t think twice about using them.” CNN included “master bedrooms” and “master bathrooms” on the list but essentially admitted difficulty in establishing a direct tie to slavery.

“While it’s unclear whether the term is rooted in American slavery on plantations, it evokes that history,” the piece read, also taking aim “whitelist,” “blacklist,” “uppity,” and the PGA’s “Masters Tournament.”

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