CNN’s Zucker quickly making changes

In his second week at his new job, CNN President Jeff Zucker is wasting no time making changes.

On Tuesday, CNN’s Mark Whitaker stepped down as managing editor after two years. Zucker will take over Whitaker’s responsibilities.

“[W]ith Jeff Zucker’s arrival,” Whitaker wrote in an email to CNN staff, “we have a new leader with his own forceful ideas about where to take CNN’s reporting, programming and brand. For him to succeed, I believe he deserves his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff.”

CNN also announced Zucker’s newest conquest: ABC’s “20/20” news anchor Chris Cuomo, who made his mark on “Good Morning America” as a news anchor from 2006 to 2009.

Cuomo, brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will co-host CNN’s revamped morning show, though a start date has not yet been set. He starts next week, CNN said, anchoring and reporting on major events.

“Chris is an accomplished anchor who is already an established name in morning television, as well as a widely respected investigative journalist,” Zucker said in a press release. “What I love about Chris is that he is passionate about every story he tells, never forgets about the viewer and represents the type of journalism that makes CNN great.”

CNN’s current morning host is Soledad O’Brien, part of a cavalcade of hosts over the years who have attempted to pump up viewership in a time slot that has been a relative weakness for the network for a long time.

Deadline.com reported Tuesday that CNN evening anchor Erin Burnett is likely to be paired with Cuomo in the mornings, though CNN has declined to comment on that possibility.

Rich Hanley, assistant professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., and an expert in television news, said he’s intrigued by a Burnett-Cuomo combo: “He brings sex appeal on the male side and a brand name. Burnett has star power and brings business credibility from her days at CNBC.”

Hanley was not surprised that Zucker, who used to run NBC, is being given broad authority to make swift moves: “It’s imperative he sails in open waters. He will be utterly accountable for everything that happens, particularly a ship that seems to have been rudderless.”

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