Even though he officially began working at CNN in January, Jeff Zucker’s CNN began today when new toy Jake Tapper debuted his show The Lead, which, while showing glimpses of promise, relegates its host to reading headlines out of a copy of USA Today.
It’s obvious from tweets from Tapper in the lead up to The Lead that CNN went for broke in the show’s pilot episode, booking Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Stephen Colbert, and Lebron James in an attempt to showcase Tapper’s talents in subjects other than politics.
So it was a bummer to see Tapper lead his show, which he's promised would be fresh, with Bloomberg talking about his felled soda ban.
And it’s disappointing that Tapper’s team thought a story that ended last week should be their lead in a day when the other headlines included a new RNC strategy by the same guy responsible for the embarrassment on November 6; news that Adam Lanza used Xbox 360 achievements to plan his massacre of more 20 children; and the further dissolution of the American family in Ohio.
Nanny Bloomberg? Again?
If Tapper was looking for a juicy news story to lead The Lead, a better choice might have been interviewing a principal on Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, despite a travel ban from the EU due to human rights abuses in his country, joining the greatest vice president ever in celebrating Pope Francis’s installation. The oversight supports the charge that CNN is eschewing actual news for poop cruises. (In case you were were looking for an update on that topic, Tapper also had a cruise story.)
Aside from his interview with Bloomberg, Tapper scored a sitdown with Stephen Colbert, who seems to have broken character to campaign for his sister running for Tim Scott’s old congressional seat.
Tapper’s producers probably should have waited to interview Colbert, though, since his appearance on The Lead only reminded viewers of how much better Colbert is than Tapper at anchoring the news. We'll see if Tapper, a correspondent-turned-anchor, can replicate Colbert's success.
And Team Tapper didn't even let their guy get in a word with Lebron James. In the millions of ads hyping Tapper's sports bonafides, The Lead lollygagged with a lame softball locker room interview featuring Rachel Nichols. How are viewers supposed to take Tapper seriously as a sports voice when he won't even speak to the jocks?
The Lead will get better once Tapper settles down. In its current incarnation, though, Tapper's show looks like its producers think copying fictional newsman Sandy Rivers reading aloud the day’s newspaper is the same thing as "taking risks".