Ronan Farrow Interview…

The New York Times’ Jesse Lichtenstein interviews Ronan Farrow and gets Phil Griffin to chime in…

Last summer, when he got the call from MSNBC, Farrow was living in a charmingly musty dorm room at Magdalen College, Oxford, England. He had left a job at the State Department for a Rhodes scholarship, studying politics and international relations. Farrow assumed MSNBC wanted him to make appearances as a talking head on their shows. He had written articles decrying what he saw as the American government’s obsession with secrecy and the partisan tenor of the Congressional hearings on Benghazi and had been invited to talk about them on television. But Phil Griffin, the president of the network, had other ideas. He’d seen clips of Farrow giving interviews and speeches and was impressed. “I started following him on Twitter,” he told me recently, “and loved the way he talked about things.” When Farrow was in New York, the two sat down for a chat. “Within 20 minutes I wanted to hire him,” Griffin says. “He’s got it.”

And we get our first glimpse at what MSNBC hopes Farrow’s show will look like…

“I wanted to have a sort of gritty reporting style to it,” Farrow said, “so we’ve got a lot of Handycam stuff that I shot, that Anthony shot.”

Griffin has said that he hopes the show will feel rough and spontaneous, not polished and packaged. On-screen we caught glimpses of a second cameraman in the frame, of the lights that illuminated a sit-down interview.

“We like showing the setup as much as possible, giving it in the raw,” Farrow said.

Povich nodded. “I think, for our audience, just letting them in a little bit on the process — that’s the thing that sets Ronan apart,” she said. “It’s just a different feel.”

And this…

His models are a mix of old school and new, a marriage of Bill Moyers and Twitter. Griffin, the president of MSNBC, told me that it was Farrow’s presence on Twitter that he wanted Farrow to emulate. “I look at his tweets and I say: ‘The way you write those little 140 characters, they’re great. That sensibility has got to be in everything you do.’ ” He was probably not thinking of the tweet that Ronan wrote the day after Thanksgiving: “The only thing better than Black Friday with your sister is Friday with your black sister.” Some of his 150,000 followers must have wondered what this blond white guy was thinking. This drier side of his humor might fare poorly under daily media scrutiny; or it might be what attracts an audience.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate about the possibility that if Farrow lands early in MSNBC’s dayside schedule – 10 am ET for example – that the show may be more than one hour in length. It would seem unlikely given how the long format show was tried a few years ago with Dylan Ratigan and didn’t work. Yet, for MSNBC to make the kind of splash it seems to be sending strong signals it wants to make with Farrow – to plant a flag if you will – I wouldn’t automatically eliminate the idea that the show winds up being more than an hour long.

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25 Responses to “Ronan Farrow Interview…”

  1. “marriage of Bill Moyers and Twitter. Griffin, the president of MSNBC, told me”

    a one hundred and forty character one-hour show with youthful geriatrics.

  2. I saw and commented on what were probably some outtakes from his new show that were played when he was on NOW with Joy Reid on Dec. 23rd.

    The discussion was about Al Shabab recruitment in Minn. and they played some interviews and handheld footage featuring Farrow. It wasn’t your typical Dayside fare; very serious subject in a style that looks a lot more like Anthony Bourdain than Thomas Roberts or Chuck Todd. I don’t know how it will play on MSNBC but it’s certainly is going to be discussed

    The big problem I see is that many, like Spud, have decided that this is an ego trip by a wannabe celebrity and a desperate network; and have deemed it a failure before the show has even started. Maybe they’re right but I think Mr. Farrow may surprise many Dayside viewers who have been been b*tching here about the lack of real serious “news coverage” on cable news networks. We’ll find out soon enough.

  3. I haven’t decided the show is a failure, nor have I decided that this is an ego trip or a desperation move by MSNBC. It would be presumptuous to call the show a failure before it launches. I’ve done that only once…for Nancy Snydermann’s MSNBC show…because I knew a medical show would never fly. And it didn’t.

    I don’t think this is an ego trip and I don’t think Phil Griffin getting Farrow is a desperation move.

    I do have reservations though. There could be a serious gravitas gap involved in putting a 27 year old with no prior TV news experience on the air anchoring some kind of news show. Can you picture Farrow anchoring 9/11 as it happened? I can’t. But we’ll see about that.

    I have even graver reservations about MSNBC’s ability to deliver news given how it’s throttled it back so hard the past couple years. Having Farrow interview a bunch of people isn’t a news show. Having Farrow read news stories on the air and toss to reporters in the field would be a news show but it would seem to me that this defeats the purpose of hiring Farrow in the first place. So I am curious to see how this all shakes out. Or doesn’t shake out.

  4. Ok Spud I’ll take back my comment that you think the show will fail although that’s the impression you leave when you take out all the “if” and “I haven’t decided” weasel words.

    I have no idea how Farrow would do hosting a ‘9/11′ breaking news story but my impression, based on limited pundit appearances and you tube videos, is that he would be far from the worst host you could have in those circumstances.

    I don’t think this is going to be a “news show” in the traditional ‘Chris Jansing and Co’ sense. From what I’m reading and the clips I saw on ‘NOW’ it sounds like the show will try to be some kind mixture of ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ and ‘Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown’ – without the emphasis on food. I don’t see him doing news reading and throwing to reporters etc.; unless it’s a breaking news story. It’s more likely, IMO, to be long form stories, 15-30 minutes, with an emphasis on foreign affairs.

    Whether this kind of show will work – who knows – but like you I’m really curious to see how it all shakes out – or not.

  5. who knows? The LUNCH WITH SOUPY show turned out to be pretty good.

  6. Well, whether he’s successful or not on MSNBC one has to be impressed with his resume and background.

    Yes, he repeats a lot of liberal and progressive platitudes. That’s pretty much a job requirement for MSNBC, isn’t it? But he sure looks like he works his tail end off. He’s been given a lot of advantages but he hasn’t just wasted them partying like some of us (ahem) did.

    Impressive young man.

  7. I don’t think this is going to be a “news show” in the traditional ‘Chris Jansing and Co’ sense.

    That would be unwise to think that since Jansing & Co. isn’t really a news show either.

    I had thought about the GPS similarities…I have concerns about how that type of format plays M-Fr as opposed to once a week.

    Erich, most cable news talents work their tail ends off…even the ones you don’t like.

  8. Spud, I have no idea what your point is.

    Anyway, Mr. Farrow has an impressive resume.

  9. You made it sound like Farrow was something unusual because he looks like he works his tail off. May not have been your intention but that’s how it came across to me.

  10. Farrow’s accomplishments at 27 are impressive. Yale Law School, law work, speechwriter for Assistant Sec. State Richard Holbrooke, Rhodes Scholar, work on a House Foreign Relations Committee…

    That was my only point.

    Nothing about his work habits being unique. Accomplishments? Yes,unique; work habits, not so unique.

  11. didn’t hurt that when hiring people with equal qualifications, they picked the kid they thought might give a shot to meet Mia or woody?

  12. Alec Baldwin wasn’t prepared to work his tail off which was one of the reasons he was told to get his tail out.

  13. “I had thought about the GPS similarities…I have concerns about how that type of format plays M-Fr as opposed to once a week.”

    ^^I agree his skill sets and the show format they want to use seem more suited to weekends rather than the short attention span of M-Fr Dayside.

    I don’t think Griffin has been any more effusive about Farrow than any of his other anchors. He’s pretty generous with his fawning praise when it come to all his hosts; particularly new hires. It’s the normally critical mainstream press, like Lichtenstein, that seem more taken in by Farrow’s resume and personal presence.

  14. I agree about Griffin going overboard in general. In one sense it’s sort of expected. All network presidents do it to some degree. My problem with it is once their words get out they’re out forever and can come back to haunt them. So, I’m constantly preaching moderation. Good luck moderating a network news president.

    That the mainstream press are taken by Farrow is an issue. But it’s also an issue that MSNBC has some modicum of control over by their own actions. Or inactions. In this case the latter is the problem. They should be tamping down expectations for someone who is essentially a blank slate to the TV news public.

  15. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    Yale Law School, Rhodes Scholar….Good God! Hide the interns!

  16. ^^They should be tamping down expectations for someone who is essentially a blank slate to the TV news public.”

    ^^Why?

    MSNBC and Griffin didn’t hire Farrow thinking ‘We better be careful here because he might fail and we don’t want to be blamed if he screws up.’ They think he’s a star.

    Can Farrow be the next Alec Baldwin? Sure; but I don’t think he will be. As far as I can see he’s overachieved in everything he’s ever done. Why should dayside TV host be any different.

    Those on the right and ‘media critics’ like David Zurawik will hate him but who cares. I think the MSM and most MSNBC viewers; particularly those with an interest in foreign affairs; will like his program. It will take some time to get use to the proposed new format and get past the hosts personal bio and looks but I think the show has as good a chance as any of succeeding.

    For me Farrow has the two qualities that make Steve Kornacki, Rachael Maddow and Chuck Todd my favorite MSNBC hosts; he’s a policy wonk and he has a really sharp self deprecating sense of humor.

  17. Me, I just think he’s cute…but I liked Hanson.

  18. If Ronan gets a show, I’ll watch to see if he really looks like Ol’ Blue Eyes. I already think he’s FS’s son, but have only seen photos of him. I wonder why Mia came out with this “news” at this time; it could be a distraction for viewers.

  19. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    I wonder why Mia came out with this “news” at this time

    Probably wanted the attention. Her career hasn’t exactly been great lately.

  20. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    Me, I just think he’s cute…but I liked Hanson.

    Janie Hodge was a cutie way back when.

  21. “If Ronan gets a show, I’ll watch to see if he really looks like Ol’ Blue Eyes.”

    ^^Maybe, after you check out his looks, you could watch the show and be entertained and possibly even learn something.

    “it could be a distraction for viewers.”

    ^^A distraction from what?

  22. “Probably wanted the attention. Her career hasn’t exactly been great lately.”

    But it doesn’t exactly make her look like a saint, especially when she has been able, for the most part, to make Woody look like the villain here.

    “A distraction from what?”

    Well, from what Ronan is saying. This was even brought up in the NYT article, I believe.

  23. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    “Probably wanted the attention. Her career hasn’t exactly been great lately.”

    But it doesn’t exactly make her look like a saint, especially when she has been able, for the most part, to make Woody look like the villain here.

    With some of these Hollywood types, they subscribe to the theory that any publicity is good publicity.

  24. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    Yeah, but can the kid sing?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWMbuBXiJeg

    I sure wish this movie would be released on DVD.

  25. […] Yes, word reached ICN last year that Phil’s early intention was to put Farrow on at 10. I wasn’t just talking out my ear when I slyly floated that scenario back in January. […]

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