Jeff Zucker: CNN Staff Can Say ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Social, but Not ‘Defund the Police’

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The network chief outlined best practices for employees’ self-expression in the wake of unrest of the police killing of George Floyd


During a digital staff town hall Wednesday, CNN chief Jeff Zucker outlined how staffers can express themselves personally online in the wake of unrest over the police killing of unarmed black man George Floyd, as well as the ongoing national conversation about systemic racism. Zucker said staffers are permitted to post the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” They cannot, however, post support for defunding the police, a rallying cry that has grown since Floyd’s death, according to individuals familiar with the matter. “I am really trying to get to the right place, to both make sure that our folks on this call and the organization have the ability to do what’s right,” Zucker said on the call, confirmed by TheWrap, “and at the same time make sure that we are protecting you individually and protecting the company.” He went on, “We know what the right thing to do is. How do we how do we ensure that we have it as good as it can be? Nothing’s ever going to be perfect. How do we protect, you know, our objectivity, our brand, the trust people place in us, and also allow you to stand up for what is right?” Omar Jimenez, the black CNN journalist who was arrested on live television covering a protest after Floyd’s death, also spoke on the call: “It takes, you know, an event like this for everybody to sort of reset. Okay, where are we right now in regards to our coverage of race and, you know, a coverage of different groups? And, you know, for better or for worse, I’m happy we’re taking advantage of this moment and I think these are conversations that need to continue. Conversations we have in the field just as we’ve had around the dinner table for a long time and, you know, I think the next step is to try and transition that into what we do so well as professionals.” Zucker’s address comes two days after Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei gave his staffers the go-ahead to protest, bending the usually-stiff journalistic rules the govern editorial staffs’ involvement — or lack of involvement — in activities that could be perceived as partisan. VandeHei told TheWrap Tuesday, “We haven’t changed our policy on demonstrations by reporters. We trust our colleagues to do the right thing, and stand firmly behind them should they decide to exercise their constitutional right to free speech.”