Jeers and chants of “pay your writers” from hundreds of picketers and a number of audience members greeted Warner Bros Discovery chief David Zaslav on Sunday as he delivered Boston University’s commencement address.
Zaslav, who graduated from B.U.’s law school, never overtly acknowledged the WGA strike or any of the vitriol, which rippled through the outdoor event throughout his 22-minute speech. Toward the end, though, he appeared to be speaking in part to his opponents when he offered a closing wish. “I hope to see all of you — and I mean all of you,” he said, pointing at the crowd for emphasis, “along the way. The journey of life. There’s nothing better.”
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According to a stream of tweets before, during and after Zaslav’s speech, picketers from the WGA and other unions waved picket signs and a plane circled overhead with the blunt message, “David Zaslav: Pay your writers.”
As far as the speech itself, it followed the conventional outline of advice from an elder, with Zaslav returning to touchstones in his career, name-checking former General Electric (and NBC) CEO, Jack Welch, and WBD board member John Malone.
Recalling advice from Welch, he quoted the late exec as urging him to find a way to get along with others, even those with whom he has differences. (Again, the words seemed to be addressing the current guild tensions, though Zaslav, his eyes shaded by sunglasses, never let on if he was aware of that.) “Some people will be looking for a fight but don’t be the one they find it with. Focus on people’s good qualities.
On the livestream provided by the university, it was difficult to discern where the chants were coming from, though Zaslav periodically took long pauses to allow the shouting to ease up before he continued. Occasional cutaways to show the audience did not show any students or others displaying their displeasure toward the commencement speaker, though several tweets showed some in the crowd with pro-WGA signs.
Here are some of the reactions from Twitter:
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