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Susan Zirinsky disapproves paying for documentary sources

During a keynote speech at Mip TV's MipDoc Co-Pro Summit in Cannes, Susan Zirinsky, former President of CBS News and current head of CBS production outfit See It Now Studios, expressed her disapproval of documentary filmmakers who pay their sources and contributors. Zirinsky stated that paying sources compromises the authenticity of the content, and that she would rather walk away from a story than pay for it. She cited Ken Burns and Alex Gibney as examples of successful documentarians who do not pay their sources.


Zirinsky also discussed the success of See It Now Studios, which launched a year and a half ago and is currently producing 51 hours of content for brands such as Paramount+ and Smithsonian Channel, as well as pitching to third parties like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. She emphasized the importance of producing content outside of the Paramount family to gain recognition. Reflecting on her time at CBS, Zirinsky talked about the need to establish a moral compass in the wake of numerous scandals and controversies at the company. She also expressed concern about the increasingly commercial nature of the documentary market, citing shorter deadlines as a challenge for filmmakers and smaller companies.