It’s Always an Open Secret in the Media

In the wake of the Jeff Zucker ousting, one of the most common refrains you see from various media types is that the relationship between the former CNN head and Allison Gollust was an “open secret” in the media world.

It’s as though it being an “open secret” somehow makes it better. Gollust was literally a former Andrew Cuomo aide who then spent an incredible amount of energy getting the former governor’s people to let him continue coming on his brother’s CNN show.

CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, mentioned when the news first broke that the CNN family was “stunned” at the firing. He would write in his media column that the firing was over a “consensual relationship with a key lieutenant.” The relationship itself wasn’t a surprise to anyone, except to the outside group investigating the Chris Cuomo matter.

When the horrifying details of Matt Lauer’s sexual antics at NBC became known, some of the initial responses were that it was a well-known “open secret.” Zucker himself made jokes about it at the Lauer roast years earlier. However, between hush money and quiet understandings, there always seems to be a major scandal that everyone in the media and entertainment world knew about all along.

It took comedian Hannibal Buress going off on Bill Cosby’s behavior in a viral stand-up routine to get dozens of women to come forward and make public what everyone in the entertainment world apparently knew. Most Americans knew nothing of it and were legitimately shocked, but all over Hollywood, it was apparently no big deal.

Harvey Weinstein’s unconscionable behavior continued as people who benefited from his influence looked the other way or stayed quiet about what he was doing to women. All it took was a single journalist to get dozens of women to come forward. We will never know the full extent of just how many people knew what Weinstein was up to because, even now, he remains a powerful figure.

Another media/enterainment open secret? (AP/Reuters Feed Library)

In the entertainment world, it’s always an open secret. It seems like it’s never a genuine shock that some of these people are morally bankrupt, corrupt, or even monsters. Rarely do we see a story come out that causes genuine shock to the people closest to the situation.

If Zucker’s relationship was such an open secret, why wasn’t it reported on by the media reporters who track these things? The people whose jobs are to tell their audience about what’s going on behind the scenes in the media, good, bad, or ugly. But if it was really so well-known, why was it kept a secret, especially in light of the Cuomo scandal CNN found itself in and for which their own in-house media analysts actively ran cover?

You will continue to see “insider” stories coming out about CNN because the damage done by the Cuomo scandal hasn’t been fully realized. But it’s still coming. One can’t help but wonder, though, if perhaps any sort of reporting of these “open secrets” in media might have prevented some of these scandals. It’s worth considering.

But all this means something else, too: If this was such an open secret, was that really the reason Zucker was fired? The reaction from folks at CNN makes you think there’s something more to it. I mean, if this was an “open secret,” then Zucker’s bosses surely knew and did nothing about it. There seems to be something more at play.

Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this “open secret” is really just proof that “media reporters” at these major outlets really aren’t doing their jobs. They are running cover for their outlets. They’re PR flacks, not journalists, and their inability to be more than that is likely going to cause CNN a lot of pain in the coming weeks.

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