He was responding to criticism that his network and other corporate media outlets had gotten the #Russiagate coverage totally wrong.
Back in the olden days, there was such a thing as shoe leather reporting, when news professionals would literally pound the pavement in search of the truth. Today it's rare for a reporter to ever tear him or herself away from the computer screen long enough to venture out of doors to talk to actual people on the street and where they live, or to comb through boxes of forgotten dusty files in courthouse basements and to treat with healthy suspicion the pronouncements and press releases of the wealthy and powerful.
Zucker and other media moguls complain that their news personalities are unfairly expected to be prosecutors with subpoena power, that they are ridiculously supposed to actually come up with their own hard evidence, otherwise known as documents and history and personal interviews with myriad people. It is not the job of journalists, in other words, to do something so extreme as to independently verify what they are told by powerful people.
To be fair, though, such investigative journalism has become much harder in recent years, particularly when the Obama administration began cracking down on government whistleblowers with such executive orders as the Insider Threat directive, issued in 2011, requiring workers to spy on one another to ascertain whether their colleagues are talking to reporters. As McClatchey News reported in 2013:
The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.If it isn't digitalized or predigested, and if it doesn't come from a think tank or a political party or an approved government spokesperson, it simply doesn't exist to a whole generation of cowed stenographers toiling away in their increasingly repressive and consolidated corporate media hives. The exceptions are natural disasters like hurricanes, or unnatural disasters like the latest school shooting. Only then can they escape into the physical world to get some fresh air and maybe even gain some fresh insight from people who normally wouldn't be given a platform.
“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”
On the rare occasions that reporters do venture forth to take the pulse of the nation, they proudly pat themselves on the back for performing a bold feat of "parachute" journalism to prove that they care, they really care, what people in the Heartland are actually doing or thinking. They make sure everybody knows that they're not the elitists whom people, a/k/a the Deplorables, so often accuse them of being.
Zucker admits that his brand of journalism doesn't dig for the facts independently, but relies upon the "facts" that the media are given by their public relations and marketing colleagues in the government, electoral politics and private industry. His brand of journalism is often restricted to presenting two differing - but not too differing - viewpoints on a given manufactured issue and then sitting passively back as the various factions duke it out on air.
Jeff Zucker is still completely in denial, proclaiming to the New York Times that he is "entirely comfortable" with having spread disinformation for the past two-plus years. It's not the media's fault that Mueller absolved Trump of "collusion", because it is not the media's job to debunk what the ruling class and their sponsors in the oil, weapons and pharmaceutical industries want them to sell to the public.
And the most valuable product that they want to sell to the public is fear, to deflect attention from the "enemy within" to some amorphous "enemy without." One handy way that the media have accomplished this feat is to constantly lambaste Trump for his anti-Muslim, anti-Latino xenophobia and to replace it with their own anti-Russian xenophobia.
The various news organizations are still wallowing in the grief-stages of denial, depression, and bargaining, with just a hint of anger that they themselves have become the targets of criticism which does not come solely from Donald Trump. The president's own vengeful crowing is such overkill, in fact, that they shouldn't really worry about the continuing hatred from him and his base.
The only thing that they really have to fear is a sudden drop in their ratings and ad revenue now that #Russiagate is dead. Even MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, whose Russophobic fear-mongering over the last two years topped everybody else's, has seen her ratings plunge since the synopsis of the Mueller report was released. She has even been demoted in some media accounts from hard-hitting crusading reporter to "cable TV personality."
While they're rushing to conduct some fake soul-searching, the media-political complex is no doubt plotting the next meta-narrative. Trump, as ever, reliably contributes to the lucrative franchise by playing the Bad Cop, railing against the media as he obligingly performs his various Outrages Du Jour to suck up all the undivided passive attention.
This week, it was killing Obamacare, yanking funding from the Special Olympics, and caging migrants underneath a Texas overpass. Trump acts, and the media reacts. The virtue-signaling soars to fever pitch. And the money flows in torrents of outrage into the usual select pockets.
The New York Times, for one, has reported record profits during the Russiagate panic, with executive editor Dean Baquet going full Edith Piaf: "We wrote a lot about Russia, and I have no regrets. It’s not our job to determine whether or not there was illegality."
Sing it, Dean!
Meanwhile, Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, under secret US indictment for his investigative journalism, is still a virtual prisoner in the Equador embassy. And whistleblower Chelsea Manning is still locked up in solitary confinement.
And despite his avowed disdain for Barack Obama and rhetoric about invaders from the Global South, Donald Trump has not only retained Obama's Insider Threat division for the suppression of truth, he has expanded it.
Last November, the Trump administration released a 19-step "maturity framework" directive for the detection of insider threats. The press release strives to mitigate the fascistically authoritarian nature of the program by repurposing the entire federal work force as the "Insider Threat Community."
Details and required course material for government employees, devised by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, are readily available online. For example, one section advises employees how to detect mental illness in their co-workers and how to report suspected sufferers to supervisors. Workers must simultaneously be "sensitive" to the stigma associated with mental disorders and still be cognizant that mentally ill people might pose a grave internal national security threat.
Since Donald Trump does not have a supervisor other than a complicit Congress and a conservative Supreme Court, guidelines regarding his alleged psychological issues do not apply and do not exist.
Still, somebody over at the Insider Threat School does seem to be trying to send a message. This chart, posted on the online course on mental illness, illustrates warning signs that government workers should be on the alert for and report to supervisors (click to enlarge):
Who, if anybody, is going to report this brilliantly subversive artist?