Talking Head Primetime Invades Daytime: Chapter 6
Well Carlos Watson got his solo anchoring hour on MSNBC and it’s at 11. As I watched it, I couldn’t help but think about the identity crisis that’s slowly infecting the news division at NBC. It’s more like a virus and MSNBC is the host.
Where do I start? Well first let’s look at the elephant in the room. I’ve been avoiding looking at it for a while now but it can’t be ignored any longer. Watson is not a journalist. He has no journalism background. And yet, he is anchoring news on MSNBC. Not talking head stuff. News. He’s tossing to reporters in the field. He’s reporting stories on the air. The question is why is NBC News allowing a non-journalist in such a key position on its air? Watson, as anchor, serves as a brand identifier for NBC News. And yet he has no formal training in the very brand he is supposed to be serving. Why? I’ll get to that in a moment.
Second, and even more troubling from a journalistic standpoint, is the fact that Watson is injecting his opinions into his newscast. A news anchor is not supposed to spout off their opinion on the topics of the day. They’re supposed to tell stories and ask questions. I do not tune in to a newscast to hear news anchors tell me where they think a story is going or what the future may hold. I’m educated enough to figure that out on my own thank you very much. I do not need or want an echo chamber for a news cast. Unfortunately this is a problem that is happening more and more these days in cable news whether it’s a Rick Sanchez or a Mike Galanos or a Julie Banderas or a Megyn Kelly. Or a Carlos Watson. Watson is a liberal and his opinions are such, which of course flies in the face of “what happens in primetime has no bearing on dayside” which we kept hearing over and over when NBC got defensive about Olbermann, Maddow, Matthews, and Schultz being a “stain” on the news division. Not anymore. Liberal opinion is now welcome on Dayside too.
What we are seeing now is the “New MSNBC”. It’s not about news anymore. Forget about that reputed “firewall” between the news division and the pundits which we’ve heard so much about. It’s gone. They tried to get rid of it last year with Olbermann and Matthews anchoring political events and it spectacularly blew up in their face. This is round 2. It’s going to have Dylan Ratigan talking about whatever he wants. It’s got David Shuster mixing it up with his interviewees. It’s got interview guests like John Ziegler, who have no business being on the air in the first place except for the gratuitous factor. It’s going to have Watson, a non-journalist, anchoring news and giving his opinions. Keith Olbermann would be right at home anchoring an hour during the day now because there’s nothing to distinguish what he does at night and what MSNBC is setting up to do during the day. Andrea Mitchell and her non-opinion show, by comparison, now reminds me of one of those segments you’d see on Sesame Street; “One of these things doesn’t look like the others…”
Who’s to blame for this? Phil Griffin. Griffin saw the success of Countdown, and to a lesser extent, Rachel Maddow, and he’s now trying to apply that to Dayside news. The problem is compelling or outspoken personalities at the news desk only gets you so far. At the end of the day it’s still about covering the news in a meaningful manner and MSNBC is spending too much time and money on one and not nearly enough on the other. Worse, one can distract from the other when the host becomes more important than the news they cover.
Every classically trained hard news journalist at NBC must be watching what’s going on with MSNBC in abject horror. Throughout its 13 year history, save the Curtis and Kuby/Buchanan and Press period, MSNBC stood for reporting the news during the day and doing the best it could at giving the viewer the information it needed. Was it always successful at it? No. Of course not. But it at least stayed true to its roots. With “MSNBC 2.0″, the roots have been dug up and in its place something else has been planted; a Frankenstein’s monster if you will, where news now has a partner and its name is opinion. And that should scare the shit out of the rest of the news division because it’s going to reflect on them eventually. Guilt by association.