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10 Media People to Watch in 2013

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These 10 media people to watch in 2013 have celebrity status, great wealth, or both. That gives them the power to rise above the challenges they face during the year. Some will succeed, while others will fail. But the decisions they make will likely impact thousands working in media.

1. Matt Lauer

A photo of NBC Today show host Matt Lauer
Photo © Getty Images
Matt Lauer faces pressure to rebuild the Nielsen ratings of NBC's Today show and his own personal image in 2013. He had signed a $25 million contract in 2012 to stay on the program, but faced much of the blame for the dismissal of Ann Curry, which knocked Today into second place behind archrival Good Morning America on ABC. Lauer must be seen as having good chemistry with his new on-air partner Savannah Guthrie in order to get himself and Today back on track under Comcast ownership.

Update on Matt Lauer:

2. Jeff Zucker

A photo of Jeff Zucker, who will now lead CNN
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Jeff Zucker is the new president of CNN, which has a suffered a long list of problems in recent years. Media pros wonder how Zucker will fix CNN, which has already shuffled personalities and lineups under Time Warner ownership and continues to trail Fox News Channel and now MSNBC in many time slots. Zucker used to be president and CEO at NBC Universal and most recently was executive producer of the Katie Couric talk show, so he has close ties to many popular on-air people who might be lured to CNN.

Update on Jeff Zucker:

3. Oprah Winfrey

A photo of OWN CEO Oprah Winfrey
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Oprah Winfrey continues to work to show why her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) cable TV channel deserves to survive. This timeline of developments at OWN shows what a long struggle it's been to find viewers. But 2013 may be dramatically different. Winfrey is turning to Tyler Perry, an entertainment icon in his own right, to develop new OWN shows. The first two are scheduled to debut in 2013, which will generate buzz and possibly be the building blocks OWN needs to support the rest of the lineup.

Update on Oprah Winfrey:

4. Rupert Murdoch

A photo of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch
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News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch faces what could be a pivotal year in 2013. Britain's phone-hacking scandal, which led Murdoch to stop publishing News of the World, has cost some executives their jobs and may lead to court trials during the year. While some have called for Murdoch's ouster, he clings to power. But now that he's in his 80s, it's time for his global media empire to look to the future. It's not known whether his eventual exit will be a noble one.

Update on Rupert Murdoch:

5. Julian Assange

A photo of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces much personal uncertainty during 2013. His long list of legal troubles includes the controversy surrounding the online publishing of U.S. government documents. But he also faces sex crime charges in Sweden and is fighting every attempt to send him there. Ecuador is granting him asylum at the country's embassy in London, but British authorities vow to arrest him if he ever leaves. Assange promises to release more government documents in 2013, which will guarantee he stays in the spotlight.

Update on Julian Assange:

6. Tina Brown

A photo of Newsweek editor Tina Brown
Photo © Getty Images
Magazine and online editor Tina Brown faces a crucial test during 2013. Her Newsweek magazine had long faced an uncertain future when the decision was made in late 2012 to make it an Internet-only publication. But she's already in charge of The Daily Beast, an online news site. It's not clear if there's a need to keep both brands alive. Newsweek may have name recognition, but some may regard it as a failed magazine brand, undeserving of continued life on the Internet.

Updates on Tina Brown:

7. Rush Limbaugh

A photo of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh
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Conservative talk radio pioneer Rush Limbaugh skids into 2013 with repair work to do to his reputation. Liberals have always hated him, while many conservatives love his outspoken commentary. His problem is corporate America is starting to second-guess their connections with his show. Limbaugh was named "Misinformer of the Year" for 2012 by the Media Matters watchdog website for his personal attacks on a woman who told a Congressional committee that contraception should be covered through national health care. He'd normally shrug off such criticism, but this time he lost advertisers and some radio station coverage.

Update on Rush Limbaugh:

8. Anderson Cooper

A photo of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper
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Anderson Cooper has been the constant face of CNN while it reinvented itself over and over. With Jeff Zucker taking charge in 2013, Cooper's role will likely be evaluated. He's made his mark as a news anchor who's not afraid to show compassion, anger and emotion on the air. But that hasn't translated into enough prime time viewers for CNN to challenge Fox News Channel or even MSNBC. In 2012, his syndicated daily talk show was canceled because of low ratings. It'll be up to Zucker to decide if Cooper is the face of the "old CNN" which he's trying to purge.

9. Rachel Maddow

A photo of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow
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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow has become the breakthrough personality MSNBC has long sought to build its brand. She fits perfectly with the cable channel, which is targeting itself toward political progressives, which some would label as liberals, as it becomes the alternative to the conservative Fox News Channel in the political spectrum. With the 2012 presidential campaign, Maddow had a banner year, but the question is how she builds on that momentum in 2013, when many viewers may tire of politics. Congressional battles will give her plenty of content, but she will have to work to engage the audience in order to continue her climb in the ratings.

10. Warren Buffett

A photo of billionaire investor Warren Buffett
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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett apparently knows something about newspapers that countless others don't. While critics have written off the entire newspaper industry as a relic of the past, Buffett spent 2012 buying up dozens of papers across the country. A successful investor doesn't make such a large purchase for simply sentimental reasons. Look for signs in 2013 of how Buffett will change the papers' business model to make money. He's indicated that he may set up paywalls to prevent giving away news coverage for free.

Update on Warren Buffett:

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