Jeff Zucker Reminds CNN Employees They’re Still Not Allowed to Participate in Protests

An email to staff Friday outlined how — or even if — CNN employees can support causes as national unrest over systemic racism continues

CNN chief Jeff Zucker reminded staffers in an email Friday that they’re still not permitted to protest or donate to any “groups that have more leeway to engage in political activities and lobbying.” Approved donations were outlined in the memo, as well.

In the email reviewed by TheWrap, Zucker told worldwide staff that amid the ongoing national conversation around systemic racism, “no one can say that CNN has pulled any punches or sat on the sidelines of these stories,” but added, “With that in mind, there have been a number of conversations around the company about our own policies and practices.”

He reminded his employees that there are reasons for CNN’s policies, which are designed to maintain objectivity as well as protect the health and safety of staffers.

“I fully understand that the real anguish and pain that many of our colleagues feel right now has caused us to question where the line is drawn on many of these issues. We have listened. And though I know that not everyone will agree, we have decided to make some changes to our CNN’s Standards & Practices,” he wrote.

As far as donating goes, staffers are now permitted to give “to any non-profit that is designated as a 501(c)(3), which is a tax-exempt status for organizations operating for religious, charitable, or educational purposes.” No 501(c)(3) organizations with “more leeway to engage in political activities and lobbying” are allowed and donations to political parties, candidates or superPACs are still not allowed.

With regard to protesting, he wrote, “CNN’s long-held position has been that CNN employees cannot participate in news-related events that CNN is covering, such as protest marches. That continues to be our position. Our job as journalists is to observe and report and sometimes that means we cannot participate.”

The changes to that policy regard vigils and “community and neighborhood gatherings.” Those, Zucker said, “serve a different purpose than a protest march, be it to memorialize or educate,” and the company supports employees’ participation in them.

CNN staffers still can’t share personal opinions on news stories, but “the prohibition does not apply to issues where CNN has articulated a clear editorial position, such as climate change, institutional racism, sexism, and LGBTQ rights,” as long as employees don’t make statements about politicians or companies specifically.

The note came at a time when some news organizations are reconsidering their policies.

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei told employees Monday they can join Black Lives Matter protests, crossing what is usually a stark line stopping journalists from demonstrating or holding public opinions on contentious social issues. Zucker on Wednesday told CNN staffers they are now able to post “black lives matter” on social media.

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