Can Jeff Zucker Get NBC Back on Track?

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In my tortured history at NBC Jeff Zucker was one of the few guys who would stick up for me. So as he takes over his new job I feel an obligation to stick up for him — for now.

I've said here a few times that I don't think the Peacock Network is playing by its own rule book, and as far as I know, the rule book hasn't changed.

At the Peacock, the network news operation is not supposed to do a few things: stage the news, manipulate the news, use the news to make personal attacks, or use the network's newscasts to advance personal political positions. So when that has happened in the past, many of us veterans of NBC have assumed it must have been Zucker's predecessor's decision to let those things happen, a guy named Bob Wright.

Now it's up to Zucker.

Part of the problem is illustrated by the controversy over NBC military analyst Bill Arkin, who wrote a piece on that criticized American soldiers for objecting to the debate in the Senate about a resolution supporting the troop surge in Iraq.

Part of the problem is the relentless attitude seeping through to the viewers from NBC News that it is institutionally against the war and the president. For three weeks in a row on "Meet the Press" Tim Russert asked guests: When are Republican senators going to go see the president and tell him the war is lost? The combative tone of NBC correspondents and anchors is not an accident.

I have always found Jeff Zucker to be a gracious and generous executive at NBC News despite a public reputation that is sometimes to the contrary. I saw him recently at a friend's birthday party and, as always, he was friendly and sincere in our short conversation. Like I say, I've always liked the guy.

But now the onus is on him. He's the guy who sets the direction of NBC, and people are going to watch to see what he does.

I'm hoping he does the right things.

That's My Word.

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