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NEW YORK - CNN has named former NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker as its new top executive.

Zucker is replacing Jim Walton, who announced he was leaving this past summer. Zucker takes over a network that was the first in cable news but has lagged behind Fox News Channel and, often, MSNBC in the ratings and has been searching for direction.

Since leaving as chief of NBC Universal, Zucker has been working with Katie Couric to put her talk show on the air. He spent many years as the top producer on NBC's Today show during its glory years in the 1990s.

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