Archive for the MSNBC Category

Where There’s Smoke…

Posted in MSNBC on July 24, 2014 by icn2

Yes, it’s another “David Gregory’s Meet The Press days are numbered” article but this one is different because it’s not Page Six or anyone connected with News Corp.’s New York Post. Even more significantly it’s The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove.

In multiple conversations that I had with people inside and outside NBC after the item appeared, it was taken as a given that Gregory is toast.

Why is it more significant because it’s Grove and not the curmudgeonly Page Six which loves to stick it to CNN and NBC/MSNBC? Because Grove, rightly or wrongly, is considered by many to be…ahem…friendly…to 30 Rock. Grove doesn’t write all that often about the goings on at NBC/MSNBC but when he does it’s not usually in…how shall I put it?…provocative tones. So to see Grove come forward with his own sourcing on Gregory being in trouble and then, on top of that, to start speculating about who leaked to The Post (!!!), something I have not seen him do before, and I had to snap to attention and read every little detail…

According to my sources, Scarborough, 51, a Washington-savvy former Republican congressman from Florida, and Brzezinski, 47, the supremely well-connected daughter of former White House national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, have been aggressively angling for the job in the event of Gregory’s all-but-certain demise. If they were to be picked as MTP cohosts, it would represent a complete departure from the 69-year-old program’s traditional format. On Thursday, Scarborough tweeted: “There have been numerous stories with NBC News sources saying Mika and I have been ‘aggressively angling’ for MTP. That is false.” There might be a difference in nuance, of course, between “aggressively angling” and “making no secret” that you want the job, as an informed source told me about Scarborough and Brzezinski.

An NBC insider told me the duo had believed they had an understanding with top news division executives that they would be named cohosts of the Sunday Today show in addition to their Morning Joe duties. Then Turness arrived at NBC from Britain’s ITV News in August 2013 and undid the agreement, I’m told. “They were furious,” my source told me, referring to Scarborough and Brzezinski.

Does this mean that Gregory is indeed in serious trouble? It’s hard to say. NBC did come out publicly with a big backing of Gregory not too long ago. But that isn’t necessarily indicative of anything definitive. Recall that when Ann Curry was rumored to be on the outs at The Today Show, there were conflicting views inside NBC on what to do with some factions advocating dropping her and others looking to keep her. That may be what’s playing out right now with elements at NBC wanting to stay the course and others looking to make a change.

One thing is certain, this story isn’t just a Page Six pushed story anymore. It’s gone mainstream. And that is something I find very significant. What it’s significance ultimately portends is not yet clear however.

Leaks Are Us…

Posted in MSNBC on July 16, 2014 by icn2

TV by The Numbers got all time low Demo numbers for Now with Alex Wagner…

MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner delivered an all-time adults 25-54 low yesterday, drawing only 19,000 viewers among the adults 25-54 demographic.

And how do we spell all time low?


Taking the Long View…

Posted in CNN, FNC, HLN, MSNBC, Ratings Related on June 30, 2014 by icn2

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Eric Chemi and Ariana Giorgi chart cable news by quarter going all the way back to 2001…when CNN was still #1

As the number of prime-time broadcast TV viewers has gone down, the number tuning into cable news has gone up. Fox has benefited. Its ratings have increased while those of its cable competitors, as a group, have mostly stayed flat. That’s a sign that the growth hasn’t come from other news networks but from viewers who had not previously been watching cable news. Nielsen’s data shows that the only other cable network to be No. 1 in its category for 50 straight quarters is, unsurprisingly, ESPN

Ronan Farrow: Bust?

Posted in MSNBC on June 12, 2014 by icn2

Salon’s Brian Steinberg explains why he thinks Ronan Farrow has been a bust on MSNBC…

But then “Ronan Farrow Daily” premiered. And in its little more than three months on the air, it has struggled in the ratings and largely failed to engage the cultural conversation. Between April 28 and May 23, his 1 p.m. show generated an average of just 50,000 in the demographic most desired by advertisers in news programming, viewers ages 25 to 54, according to Nielsen. Compare that with the 161,000 tuning in to panel show “Outnumbered” on Fox News Channel, or the 73,000 watching CNN’’s “Legal View.” So what went wrong? Why is the Ronan Farrow of “Ronan Farrow Daily” so different from what most of us — least of all MSNBC — expected?

It’s hard to find fault with any of Steinberg’s points such as…

This may be the biggest surprise of MSNBC Ronan, in light of the way charisma oozed from his pre-TV persona: He’s boring. On the air, he is mannequin-ish and inaccessible, more suave ambassador than nerdy emcee. He’s not a clever orator like Maddow or a fiery one like Lawrence O’Donnell. He seems tightly wound on camera, particularly when interviewing guests who are not in the studio. He tends to speak over them: Introductions and farewells are awkward largely because he does not pause for the inevitable “hello” or “thank you” a new guest or departing interviewee is bound to utter. He is also prone to telling viewers “we’ll come back to that point” when breaking into an interview, but never doing so.

Sure, part of the problem may be that MSNBC doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with him. If Farrow was seen as a means of building bridges with a new generation of viewers, why not launch him at 11 p.m., when youth-skewing stuff like “The Daily Show” has fared well? Putting him on at 1 p.m., when he is surrounded by ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs, pitches for the buffet line at Golden Corral, and direct-response spots for Life Alert (Help me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!) seems to defeat the purpose of a program that hopes to galvanize a generation. And Hayes, Kornacki et al. mostly got their starts on the network by filling in on prime time while Rachel Maddow or others were away. Their introductions were gradual; audience and host could feel each other out. Farrow arrived with a trumpet blast of publicity.

Michael Wolff on Saving CNN…

Posted in CNN, MSNBC on June 8, 2014 by icn2

Michael Wolff pens a typically Wolffian article on CNN and cable news talent…

To an ever and ever greater degree, cable news is about sliver audiences — even Fox News averages only a million viewers a night — targeted to melodramatic or campy political sensibilities. In the case of CNN, which tries to rise above single-bore politics, its specialty is the melodramatic and campy news event— the ever-missing plane —that draws the ever-declining news audience.

This reflects a problem with the cable audience — it’s overly fixated, if not fetishistic.

But it may also reflect a problem with cable news talent.

The very idea of what we used to call a television broadcaster, charismatic and authoritative, has been lost — with, arguably, Barbara Walters, retiring last month at 84, being the last living example in America.

Oh please. First of all, while the theory that the idea of what we used to call a TV broadcaster has been lost is inarguably open to debate still (See: Smith, Shepard, Tapper, Jake, Holt, Lester, Sawyer, Diane, Lauer, Matt, Scott, Jon, etc..etc…), the notion that Barbara Walter resembled the last bastion of it is ludicrous on its face.

The nadir of television gravitas may be Ronan Farrow on MSNBC. He’s a third-rate movie plot: The child anchor, self-serious and mimicking the adults, finding himself, through happenstance and cynical television logic, embarrassingly on the air.

Ok…no argument there.

A corollary to this is that nobody wants to go on television to be interviewed anymore — and television news is an interview medium.

Uh huh…that’s why networks aren’t fighting over scoop interviews any more. Oh wait…they still are! Well at least the interviewees have now embraced their dislike of TV interviews and only interview in print now. Oh wait…they don’t!

Now ambitious television talent wants another job. The savvy want to be Anthony Bourdain. That’s the most frequent pitch in the business: To be the Anthony Bourdain of…heath, technology, art, war…fill in the blank.

Right…that’s why news talent has stopped fighting to get on national TV news shows. Huh? They haven’t?

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is news for people who don’t want news. After all, cooking is his subject — arguably, a much more emotionally satisfying lens through which to see the world than the disconnection and anger of politics.

I’ll give Wolff 50% credit here for embracing Jeff Zucker’s vision – a vision that chooses to shift the discussion about what constitutes news rather than investing heavily into fixing what is currently a stagnant, boring, broken model that centers on exploiting political left/right divisions in this country. But in doing so, Wolf inadvertently touches on the real bane of cable news…cable news programming formats…and not a lack of quality talent available to do the job right.

In a sense, Bourdain is a throwback to that once-prevalent form, the magazine news show. Even in the heyday of television news, the talking head became stultifying and needed to be balanced by a larger, more dramatic and cinematic world. Hence, Dateline’s long run.

But the problem with magazine shows, and why they never made it in cable and, indeed, the problem with Bourdain’s show, is that they are expensive, whereas talking heads are not.

The Bourdain show has been a hit on CNN, and respite from the lost plane, but in order for it to make money for CNN, it has to be repeated many times, ideally, endlessly. CNN, in other words, has to become the Discovery Channel — and it is clearly trying to.

Ding, ding, ding…full marks to Wolff here…

As I say, this desire to restore CNN to some aspect of what it really never was and what, anyway, it is not going to be again — an assertive and authentic news source — continues against all logic.

Oh baloney…from 1980 through the mid 90’s CNN indeed was that assertive and authentic news source. CNN International to a great extent still is. CNN US is not. Not for the vast amount of programming it does unless a big story breaks.

But here is my suggestion.

Jeremy Paxman is the most famous broadcaster in Britain, a legendary interviewer and indomitable figure and, after many years, he has just, restlessly, left his job as the host of the BBC show Newsnight after 25 years. Yes, yes, there are the obvious dangers, after Morgan, of another English accent on CNN. A bad fumble, Piers. But Paxman is the real thing. What news needs, what it cannot coherently exist without, is authority. Two generations of cable news have pretty much wiped that out in America. So it probably has to be imported. With Paxman its withering authority. With vast superiority and haughtiness, which, of course, television executives undoubtedly believe will turn off an uncomprehending American audience.

On the other hand, some pitiless intelligence might be a cure. In contrast to Farrow and the gargoyles and the blah and the bland of cable, a figure like Paxman could be electrifying — please, find him on YouTube and send a note to CNN — and television news might seem quick, astute and knowing again.

I have nothing to say either for or against Paxman. But the idea that plugging Paxman into CNN, with its current perverted vision of what makes a good daily newscast and what constitutes news, is not going to do much other than corrupt Paxman and contort him to fit into the current paradigm. Until the paradigm changes, nobody you could name, living or dead, is going to be very successful at accomplishing what needs to be accomplished to make CNN that day in day out standard bearer of news again.

Shooting Fish In A Barrel…

Posted in MSNBC on May 26, 2014 by icn2

Andrew Kirell ridicules Ronan Farrow who put his foot into it on Twitter earlier today. I wasn’t going to bother as it was too easy but since Kirell, apparently bored with Memorial Day stuff, bothers to not break a sweat, I’ll just highlight what he wrote since it mirrors my own feelings…

Boy genius and MSNBC host Ronan Farrow wants you to know his dating life is like a harrowing Holocaust film, and his business meetings tend to play out like a classic French coming of age film.

The man to whom MSNBC gave a show because of his social media savvy made the comparison on his Twitter account Monday evening, stunning us all with his hilarious wit and undeniable charm:

Ah, yes. His dating life is like a gruesome, three-hour film about a German businessman who witnesses mass extermination of Jews and sets out to rescue a bunch; and his business meetings are like a postmodern French film about two girls who explore their sexuality and class differences.

MSNBC Taps Jose Diaz-Balart for 10am…

Posted in MSNBC on May 20, 2014 by icn2

In a somewhat surprising move, which I will get into later tonight, MSNBC announced that Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart will take over the 10am slot being vacated by Chris Jansing…


In addition to Telemundo’s “Noticiero” and “Enfoque,” Díaz-Balart to Host MSNBC’s 10 a.m. Hour Live from Miami

NEW YORK – May 20, 2014 – Emmy Award-winning journalist and Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart will join MSNBC’s weekday line-up next month. Díaz-Balart will anchor MSNBC’s 10 a.m. hour live from Miami, Florida. He will begin in mid-June following the departure of Chris Jansing, who is heading to Washington as NBC News Sr. White House Correspondent. The announcement was made today by Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC.

Díaz-Balart currently co-anchors Telemundo’s “Noticiero Telemundo” and hosts “Enfoque con José Díaz-Balart,” roles in which he will continue to serve.

“It’s a great privilege for me to be able to be a part of the MSNBC team while continuing my work with my colleagues at Telemundo,” said Díaz-Balart. “I look forward to providing news and information in a dynamic and objective manner, while always recognizing America’s unique diversity.”
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Alex Wagner Profile…

Posted in MSNBC on May 13, 2014 by icn2

Gamour’s Cindi Leive profiles Alex Wagner…

CL: One of the great things I’ve noticed about you is that you seem to be the same person on air as off.
AW: So you either like it or you don’t like it!

CL: Well, that’s rare in a TV anchor.
AW: Phil Griffin [president of MSNBC] gives all his hosts and anchors a real opportunity to be who they are. “Playing TV” isn’t what we do at MSNBC—which isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of work that goes on. But the act of [in exaggerated newscaster voice] “faking TV anchor,” that’s not who we are.

CL: Female anchors used to have to present themselves with the TV hair, the look. Are those old stereotypes going away?
AW: Well, I think this is about women and their changing roles. The general trend in television is to be more transparent, and that is especially true for women: to not pretend that we wake up with our hair in perfect shellacked bobs. [Laughs.] We are not yet at the point where I can wear my plaid flannel on TV, but we’re loosening up.

CL: You’ve had great male mentors: Phil Griffin and George—Mr. Clooney, excuse me! Have there been women mentors who’ve been influential too?
AW: Melinda Henneberger was my editor at Politics Daily. She said, “Kid, we’re going to put you in the White House.” I was like, “You do realize I’ve only been to the Easter egg roll there, and I have no business covering 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” She’s brilliant, and when I met her, I thought, I want to be like her!

Chris Jansing Heads South…

Posted in MSNBC on May 2, 2014 by icn2

Ok…you know you were waiting for me to write about this. You knew it was coming. So here it is…

Anyone who has followed either Chris Jansing or this blog for any amount of time instinctively knows three things; she is very very good at what she does, she has had opportunities to cover stories that anchors at other cable nets and many anchors in MSNBC’s history have never had the chance to, and she’s a wonk about politics.

So, on its face, today’s news that NBC is moving her to the White House beat where she’ll be a Senior Correspondent accomplishes two things; it fills one of the few remaining holes in her resume from her time at NBC/MSNBC and it puts her in a spot where she should absolutely thrive in.

You would be right in assuming that this promotion very well could be the high point of her career. It’s the White House dangit! The chief power center of the TV News universe outside of New York. This is all about a move up right?
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MSNBC Changes…

Posted in MSNBC on May 2, 2014 by icn2

NBC announced this afternoon that Chris Jansing is going to become a Senior White House Correspondent, which means no more MSNBC and opens a hole in the schedule at 10am. I’ll have a lot more to say about this shortly and…yes…in typical ICN fashion it will not be pithy…




MAY 2, 2014 — NBC News President Deborah Turness and NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd today announced two key promotions, naming Chris Jansing as NBC News’ Senior White House Correspondent and Peter Alexander as National Correspondent.

Jansing will return to NBC News full time next month, relocating from New York to join Todd, Alexander, and Kristen Welker in the unit. She will report primarily for “NBC Nightly News,” providing day-to-day coverage of the Obama administration and White House politics. Alexander will report not only on the White House but also on national affairs beyond Washington DC. MSNBC will announce Jansing’s replacement in the coming weeks.

“Chris will bring her editorial tenacity and passion for the story to this new role,” said Turness. “She is well known to the Nightly audience, having been a regular contributor for many years, and having covered every Olympics for Nightly News since 2006. Her wealth of experience and her ability to connect the political story to the American people make her a valued addition to our White House team.
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Ronan Farrow Interview…

Posted in MSNBC on May 1, 2014 by icn2

NY Mag’s Jennifer Vineyard interviews Ronan Farrow…

Farrow said that his show launched at a time when few other cable news programs (except those on MSNBC, obviously) “were hitting a diverse range of substantive topics. It was a time when one story was getting hammered over and over again.” Ronan Farrow Daily, he insisted, did not aim for “low-hanging fruit” but “substantive hard news coverage.”

“It’s a tough business, and there is always that tension between speaking truth to power, and getting stories out there that actually affect people’s lives.” He explained that he actively looks for “under-covered stories,” and lets the audience vote on what they want to know about next. “This week, everyone voted by a landslide for gerrymandering,” he said. “So we’re doing detailed coverage of that. You look at the map of electoral districts … and it makes no sense.” These kinds of stories will continue to rub up against millennial concerns like marijuana legalization and the ban on e-cigarettes. Not that Farrow vapes himself: “Someone once handed me a vaporizer, and I didn’t know what to do with it!” he laughed. “That is how uncool I am.”

April Ratings Preview…

Posted in CNN, FNC, MSNBC on April 28, 2014 by icn2

The New York Times’ Bill Carter writes about April ratings…

But since March 13, when the CNN plane coverage was ratcheting up, “Morning Joe,” which has generally enjoyed wide attention in New York-based media, has found itself consistently behind the 10-month-old “New Day” on CNN. From that date, through last Friday “New Day” won 25 days to eight for “Morning Joe.” (Though, in perhaps a sign that the momentum may be shifting back, “Joe” beat “New Day” easily on the last recorded day, April 25.)

“CNN has made itself a punch line on the ‘Daily Show’ for its phony breaking-news headlines and breathless coverage of random ocean debris,” Joe Scarborough, the anchor of “Morning Joe,” said. “ ‘Morning Joe’ topped CNN in the first quarter by covering hard news, just as we have for the past five years. We will do the same in the future and won’t be distracted by ‘X-Files’ cable news programming.”

The average for April among viewers ages 25-54 was 119,000 for “New Day,” to 105,000 for “Morning Joe.” Both were fighting for the right to a distant second to “Fox and Friends,” which averaged 237,000 viewers in the age group.

In February, the month before the plane disappeared, “Morning Joe” had a comfortable margin over “New Day,” 127,000 viewers to 79,000 in that advertiser-preferred group. So “New Day” is up more than 50 percent since then, while “Joe” is down 17 percent.

The morning show problem was only one of many for MSNBC in April. The network, which is mainly devoted to covering politics from a left of center slant, averaged only 112,000 viewers for its total day coverage in April. That was its lowest total since May 2007.

“It was a soft month, no doubt,” said Lauren Skowronski, the spokeswoman for MSNBC. “But they are not going to change the editorial approach for one story. They want to stay on brand.”

MSNBC and NowThis News team up…

Posted in MSNBC on April 14, 2014 by icn2

Newscast Studio’s Dak Dillon writes about MSNBC and NowThis News teaming up to distribute content on a variety of platforms…

MSNBC and NowThis News have launched new, co-produced original 15-second daily video series titled “15 Seconds to Truth,” which will dig into a big headline each day to uncover a truth hidden behind the day’s conventional wisdom and spin.

The video series, launching today on MSNBC, Facebook and Twitter, builds on the recently formed partnership between the NBCUniversal News Group and NowThis News, a news organization that specializes in creating unique and impactful short-form video for audiences across social platforms, and popularized the format of 15-second news videos.

In addition to distributing “15 Seconds to Truth” across social and mobile platforms, MSNBC will air the news pieces on-air during its regular broadcast lineup as programs transition in and out of commercial breaks.

Lawrence O’Donnell Out For a While…

Posted in MSNBC on April 14, 2014 by icn2

TVNewser’s Jordan Chariton writes that Lawrence O’Donnell was involved in an overseas car accident along with his brother and will be off the air for a while as he recuperates.

Q: When Is A Fundraiser Not A Fundraiser?

Posted in MSNBC on April 10, 2014 by icn2

A: When the fundraiser’s organizers decide to change it from being a fundraiser to a non-fundraiser of course. Politico’s Dylan Byers has more

UPDATE (10:55 p.m.): Within an hour of this post, New Hampshire’s Cheshire County Republican Committee issued a press release noting that the event in question would no longer be a fundraiser, and that they would lower the price of tickets to $25, which would merely cover costs — thereby allowing MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough to speak at the event without forcing MSNBC to change its policy. The post has been updated to reflect that change.

MSNBC will allow host Joe Scarborough to deliver the keynote address at what was originally slated to be a political fundraiser next month, even though it denied that privilege to host Ed Schultz earlier this year.

“Joe isn’t participating in a fundraiser. MSNBC hosts often participate in events where there is a nominal fee for registration or tickets that basically cover the cost of the event. There has been no change in policy,” Lauren Skowronski, the network’s vice president of media relations, wrote in an email late Wednesday night, bringing an end to nearly 36 hours in which the network did not respond to requests for comment.

Uh-huh. Looks like someone caved to me…

Double Standards?

Posted in MSNBC on April 8, 2014 by icn2

Politico’s Dylan Byers writes about MSNBC going quiet about Joe Scarborough keynoting a GOP fundraiser after Ed Schultz was forced to pull out of keynoting a Democrat party fundraiser…

Back in February, MSNBC host Ed Schultz was forced to cancel his keynote address at a Democratic fundraising event in Florida due to a network policy prohibiting hosts from participating in political fundraisers.

But now that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough is scheduled to give a keynote address at a Republican fundraising event in New Hampshire, MSNBC has gone silent. Lauren Skowronski, the network’s vice president of media relations, did not respond to four emails requesting comment on Scarborough’s attendance at the event. (She did respond to an email wishing her a happy birthday.)


If MSNBC lets him, that is. And if they do, it will be hard to justify why they didn’t let Ed Schultz speak to Florida Democrats.



Posted in MSNBC on March 31, 2014 by icn2

The New York Daily News Gossip column Confidential has an insane piece of rubbish about Ronan Farrow’s show…

Ronan Farrow’s MSNBC talk show is facing cancellation amid poor ratings, sources exclusively tell Confidenti@l.

Cancellation? After a month? After Phil Griffin and Patricia Fili-Krushel publicly stuck their necks way out for the kid? There is ZERO…I repeat…ZERO chance of Farrow’s show getting killed off any time soon based solely on its ratings. In a year? Possibly. But not now. Too many egos are on the line and too many faces would have egg on them if itchy trigger fingers prevailed at 30 Rock…

Politico’s Dylan Byers agrees

But the “facing cancellation” part is only true in an abstract sense. He’s facing cancellation in, say, nine months to a year, if things don’t improve. Not because executives have given him a timeline, but because that’s just common sense. The idea that Phil Griffin is sitting in his office mulling over whether or not to drop the knife is not true, simply because the show is so new. Few TV executives would dare to cancel a show just one month — or even six months — after its launch.

But then Byers blindly falls into the exact same trap the New York Daily News bumbled into…

The poor ratings part is very true. Painfully true: almost no one watches the show. He’s bringing in something slightly north of 300,000 viewers. Last Wednesday’s show was rated 708th by Nielsen, meaning more people watched the midnight airing of “Baggage” on the Game Show Network.

Those numbers are being used completely out of context. This is MSNBC dayside we are talking about, not primetime. Yes, if this were prime those numbers would be atrocious. But for dayside? They fall right in line with what MSNBC usually does at that time of day. If Farrow was putting out a P2+ of 150,000…yeah…then it’s all hands on deck time at 30 Rock and heads are rolling. But he’s not. It’s not important where his show ranks with all of cable. What’s important is how his show does relative to the rest of MSNBC dayside.

Now…THIS is trouble…

“He sort of stinks on TV,” an MSNBC source told Confidenti@l. “He hasn’t turned out to be the superstar they were hoping for.”

Cackling in the ranks already? Not good. It means not everyone has buy-in on Farrow internally.

And then there’s this quickly erected MSNBC straw-man…

A source defending him said: “Half the time Ronan has been on the air, the missing plane has dominated daytime TV.”

Two things:

1) So what? Cover the plane then! Get on experts. Have Farrow talk about the geopolitics at work in the background between China and Malaysia…something NOBODY is talking about but is a VERY real factor in all this. Oh, wait…that’s right…MSNBC doesn’t do news anymore. Chickens do come home to roost…

2) The plane isn’t depressing Farrow’s numbers at all are they? The show hasn’t dipped since the plane story took off has it? Then what the hell is this source babbling on about? They’re making an excuse for a problem that does not exist. If Farrow’s numbers haven’t tailed off in the past three weeks because of MH370 then the plane story has no impact on his numbers…so why cite it?

Still Pondering Ronan Farrow…

Posted in MSNBC on March 11, 2014 by icn2

Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein writes about how Ronan Farrow’s transition from Twitter to TV hasn’t quite worked as planned…by MSNBC anyways.

Sure, before the man so much as opened his mouth, his face seemed to bear some blame. His eerie resemblance to his alleged is-he-or-isn’t-he father Frank Sinatra is a distraction. Or maybe Farrow is just too damned handsome; those limpid pools he calls eyeballs are so mesmerizing it’s easy to lose track of what he’s saying.

But being too telegenic isn’t really the problem here. In his opening weeks on the air, Farrow has seemed tentative and ill at ease, prone to stumbling on his words. More to the point, he just doesn’t resemble the guy who is so dazzling on social media.

But concluding that the kind of personality that succeeds on Twitter is just a totally different animal than the type conducive to good TV would be wrong. Because it’s actually MSNBC that needs to fall on its sword for failing Farrow; the network put him in a format that doesn’t capture the essence of his Twitter persona.

Cable news basically has two different types of personality-driven shows. The first is where the anchor takes a backseat to the commentator he or she is interviewing. The job is to tee up the topic at hand and ask intelligent questions, but to otherwise get out of the way and let the news be the star. That’s the format MSNBC gave Farrow, and it’s the wrong one.

What the network should have done was give him the kind of forum that makes people like Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly famous, in which the questioner and commentator are essentially the same person; those they interview are really just furniture. It’s here where Farrow could have employed the wit and opinion he puts to such good use on Twitter, but is totally muffled in his current vehicle.

Pondering Ronan Farrow Daily…

Posted in MSNBC on March 10, 2014 by icn2

In a must read that echoes some of what I wrote, The Huffington Post’s Zach Simon is not impressed with Ronan Farrow Daily…

If the first few episodes are any indication of what’s to come, don’t expect to see a show that holds cable news’ proverbial feet to the proverbial fire. In fact, expect just the opposite. The show has included the same tired “expert panel” segments featured on virtually every other MSNBC show in which recycled casts of the network’s personalities and contributors regurgitate the same staid analysis show after show. There are the same glitzy graphics whose sanitized sheen is completely devoid of any personality. There’s the 2016 presidential speculation; the punny chryons; the same misapprehended use of the terms “breaking news” and “developing story.”

The show is, in every way, fashioned from the very cloth Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have spent their careers assiduously shredding.

And for a show whose lead-in word cloud boasts that its host is a “SPOKESPERSON FOR YOUTH,” Ronan Farrow Daily has thus far featured remarkably few youths. It’s becoming clear that the show’s goal is not to actually engage young people, but rather to simply have a young person speak to all the grown-ups in the room. You can bet that I won’t be tweeting clips of Mr. Farrow’s interview with George Takei or David Axelrod anytime soon.

In that respect, Mr. Farrow looks more like the kid at the dinner party who mingles easily with his parents’ friends and has impeccable table manners than a spokesperson for the politically active generation that helped propel President Obama to victory — twice.

I don’t so much blame Ronan Farrow as I do the network executives who put him there. He’s their errand boy. They have no clue how to connect with young viewers and don’t truly care to find out, save for inserting a young, fresh face with a famous last name into the equation.

Doogie Howser: Cable News Host

Posted in MSNBC on March 2, 2014 by icn2

What can we divine from these word cloud images that appear during Ronan Farrow Daily’s open? More importantly, what does MSNBC want us to divine from these word cloud images that appear during the show’s open?



Well, for one thing we can get an idea of why Phil Griffin wants to put a 26 year old in the anchor chair. “Spokesperson for youth”. It and “Rally” are the only categories that appears in both of these images…a not very subtle attempt to cater to the demographic Griffin is hoping to ensnare. The problem is you don’t become a spokesperson for youth by simply putting words on a screen. Non-subliminal messaging is a poor substitute for actual action.

Update: It’s possible that there is an alternate explanation for the Spokesperson for Youth inclusion. From 2001 to 2009, Farrow was a UNICEF Spokesperson for Youth. It’s possible that the words appearing on MSNBC’s screen refer to that portion of his life but for legal and trademark reasons could not include the UNICEF label. That would make a bit more sense than the idea that MSNBC just threw the words Spokesperson for Youth up on the screen in a flailing attempt to attract younger viewers.

But if MSNBC does want to go after that most fickle of news demographics; the 18-25 group…one more fickle to cable news than news junkies…it needs to tailor the show to them and not just throw them the occasional bone in a single segment in a rundown overwhelmingly dominated by the usual MSNBC progressive subjects not of interest to the young – at least not of enough interest as evidenced by how similar programming on MSNBC the past couple years has failed to attract them and then keep them watching – and the odd breaking news segment.

There is a danger in that strategy though. That danger is creating a show to appeal to one particular demographic can have the potential of alienating all the other demographics…ones that MSNBC has up until now been almost exclusively relying on. MSNBC appears to be aware of this which goes a long way to explaining the schizoid format of Ronan Farrow Daily up until this point. It’s trying to have it both ways. On the one hand its trying to position Farrow as the “great young hope” but it is imprisoning him in a show that undercuts all that. You can’t please all of the people all of the time but you can alienate all of the people all of the time. A show which is positioned one way but executes a completely different way has the potential of doing just that.
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Vocativ and Ronan Farrow…

Posted in MSNBC on February 23, 2014 by icn2

The New York Times’ Leslie Kaufman writes about the deal MSNBC has going with Vocativ for its Ronan Farrow show…

When Ronan Farrow, the young human rights lawyer with a Hollywood lineage, debuts as an MSNBC host on Monday, he will have some prodigious computing power backing him up.

MSNBC has struck a partnership with Vocativ, a digital news start-up, to provide the new program — “Ronan Farrow Daily” — with up to three taped video segments a week. Vocativ mines the Internet for exclusive news and other content with data-collection software traditionally used by governments and corporations.

Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, said Vocativ’s marriage of big data and conventional reporting was an innovative approach to journalism. “It is an additional tool for us,” he said. “And who knows where it is going to go for the entire NBC News group.”

Update: MSNBC put out a release on the Vocativ news…


The Global Social News Network Will Produce News Programming for MSNBC and Other NBCUniversal News Group Platforms
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Alec Baldwin vs. The World…

Posted in MSNBC on February 23, 2014 by icn2

Vulture Magazine has a piece penned by Alec Baldwin and detonates enough bridges to make Keith Olbermann proud…

I watched MSNBC, prior to working there, very sporadically. Once I had signed a contract with them, I wanted to see more of what they were about. It turned out to be the same shit all day long. The only difference was who was actually pulling off whatever act they had come up with. Morning Joe was boring. Scarborough is neither eloquent nor funny. And merely cranky doesn’t always work well in the morning. Mika B. is the Margaret Dumont of cable news. I liked Chris Jansing a lot. Very straightforward. I like Lawrence O’Donnell, but he’s too smart to be doing that show. Rachel Maddow is Rachel Maddow, the ultimate wonk/dweeb who got a show, polished it, made it her own. She’s talented. The problem with everybody on MSNBC is none of them are funny, although that doesn’t prevent them from trying to be.

And this…

MSNBC assigned a producer to me, Jonathan Larsen. Like Sullivan with Orphans, Larsen didn’t get me or the show and didn’t want to be there. When I told him I wanted to interview Debra Winger, Larsen looked like, We’re here on a set, with an expensive crew and studio time, and you want to talk to Debra Winger? There was nothing less interesting to him. Most of the guests I suggested—Ellen Barkin, Neal Barnard from PCRM, JFK-conspiracy icon Mark Lane—he couldn’t care less. As we went along, Larsen would simply stare at me after everything I’d suggest and say, “Well, let’s see what Phil says.” Larsen was sent there to babysit me.

Phil Griffin is the head of MSNBC, and when I saw that Griffin didn’t have a single piece of paper on his desk, meeting after meeting after meeting, that should have been my first indication there was going to be a problem. Phil is a veteran programmer who knows well the corridors and chambers of television programming—and couldn’t give a flying fuck about content. All he wanted to talk about was Giants tickets, Super Bowl tickets, restaurants, movies. The conversations about the set, about the physical production of the show, cameras, lighting—it seemed like he wanted to get those over with as quickly as possible. He didn’t care. He had four monitors on the wall. They were all on, muted. He never listened to them. He never watched them.

And this…

Immediately prior to this, I’d go see Phil and I’d say, “What are the ratings?” If I had 15 meetings with Phil Griffin, 5 of them were after the show, with me saying, “What do you make of these ratings?” He’d say, “Don’t worry. It takes time.” (We beat Cooper two of three Fridays at ten.) Although he appeared to have some buyer’s remorse, he told me to hang in there. After the TMZ event, he said, “Don’t worry. I have to suspend you. But this will blow over.” I have all the emails to prove it. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, MSNBC said, “You’re fired.”

Once they fired me, a former MSNBC employee I knew emailed me. He said, “You watch now, Phil is going to start leaking left and right to bury you.” When I left, “Page Six” was flooded with lies about me. Another told me, regarding the “toxic little queen” comment, that Rachel Maddow was the prime mover in my firing, as she was aghast that I had been hired and viewed me as equivalent to Mel Gibson. Another source told me, “You know who’s going to get you fired, don’t you? Rachel. Phil will do whatever Rachel tells him to do.” I think Rachel Maddow is quite good at what she does. I also think she’s a phony who doesn’t have the same passion for the truth off-camera that she seems to have on the air.

MSNBC Attacks…

Posted in MSNBC on February 7, 2014 by icn2

The AP’s David Bauder writes about MSNBC’s recent history of self-inflicted wounds. Two part are particularly notable.


Griffin, who declined comment through a spokeswoman, has quietly put the word out to hosts to avoid personal attacks. Rachel Maddow’s meticulous, fact-based criticisms of conservatives is looked upon as the network’s model.

Quietly relative to the outside world. Probably not so quietly inside 30 Rock though…

And this…

There’s some feeling within MSNBC, and among its fans, that the network’s personalities are held to a higher standard than people at Fox News.

To a large extent, that’s driven by the relationship with NBC News. Some viewers make little distinction between the two, particularly when NBC News personalities like Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd have regular programs on MSNBC, and NBC is sometimes held culpable for MSNBC’s sins.

Mixed Messages…

Posted in MSNBC on February 3, 2014 by icn2

With the Olympics in Sochi about to kick off in a few days, Chris Jansing flew out last week. So a substitute anchor was going to be needed to do her show today since she’s in Russia…

Richard Lui?
Thomas Roberts?
Veronica De La Cruz?
Betty Nguyen?

Ari Melber…

MSNBC could have put on any number of its news anchors to do her show, which ostensibly is supposed to be a news show, and instead it tapped a pundit…someone known for their ideological opinions and not their journalistic bonafides.

(three paragraphs of ICN ranting about the differences between journalists and pundits and how this sends mixed messages to the viewers about the purpose of Jansing’s show snipped)


Phil Griffin Interview…

Posted in MSNBC on January 30, 2014 by icn2

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove interviews Phil Griffin…

In his office Griffin insists: “I think we’ve never had an ideology. An ideology is a single thought across all programs. We’ve never had that.” As evidence, he mentions the spirited on-air debates in 2010, pro and con, concerning whether the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire. “Obviously I hire people who fit the sensibility,” Griffin says. “We do stay true to facts. You have to build your argument. That’s why I call it a sensibility.”
He continues: “If you’re a Democrat in trouble, we’re not a place where we’re going to rehabilitate you. You’re not going to get a free ride if you did wrong.” As evidence that the cable outlet is by no means a White House shill, Griffin mentions Ed Schultz’s impassioned criticisms of the Obama administration’s trade policies, and various MSNBC hosts’ more general condemnation of Obama’s use of deadly drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, he stoutly defends All In host Chris Hayes, a former writer for the paleo-liberal Nation magazine and protégé of MSNBC’s prime-time star Rachel Maddow; he initially hosted Up, MSNBC’s early morning weekend program, until Griffin elevated him to 8 p.m. early last year. Hayes’s ratings, opposite Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and CNN’s Anderson Cooper, had been anemic until recently. Hayes himself called them “bad.”

“I’m committed to Chris Hayes at 8 o’clock,” Griffin says, noting that a recent tweak of the schedule, positioning Schultz at 5 p.m., where Matthews had been, and airing Matthews live at 7 p.m. instead of a repeat of his earlier show, has resulted in a stronger lead-in and marked improvement in Hayes’s numbers. “The line is straight up, and I couldn’t be happier with where we are,” Griffin insists. “I’m glad, because I put him there.”

Bad Day At 30 Rock…

Posted in MSNBC on January 30, 2014 by icn2

Having a day job sometimes prevents me from blogging when all hell is breaking loose at a cable news network. Today was one of those days. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple writes about The Tweet Heard Round The Internet (Copyright 2014, TM, Patent pending)…

Recent flare-ups come from just about everywhere except the people helming MSNBC’s regular prime-time lineup. Bashir was marooned at the 4:00 p.m. hour, in the midst of what BuzzFeed’s Dorsey Shaw calls “a super-dead zone.” Alec Baldwin was doing a weekly Friday night show when he said allegedly hateful things to a paparazzo. Melissa Harris-Perry’s misfiring discussion on Mitt Romney’s family occurred on her weekend show. And this latest firestorm surges not from prime time; not from non-prime time; but from the network’s Twitter feed. All that should be enough to enrage an expressive guy like Griffin.

And it has, according to two sources at the network. Griffin, says one of the sources, is as “angry” as his colleagues have seen him. In a meeting, he warned of serious and immediate repercussions and ripped the staff about the recent bout of stupid actions, according to the sources.

Lauren Skowronski, a spokeswoman for the network, e-mailed this statement: “What you’re hearing is an exaggeration but obviously this is a serious matter that’s being handled internally. Phil has spoken to his team to make it clear that these incidents are unacceptable.”

UPDATE: Griffin has put his name behind an apology that reads as follows:

“The tweet last night was outrageous and unacceptable. We immediately acknowledged that it was offensive and wrong, apologized, and deleted it. We have dismissed the person responsible for the tweet.

I personally apologize to Mr. Priebus and to everyone offended.

At MSNBC, we believe in passionate, strong debate about the issues and we invite voices from all sides to participate. That will never change. “

What a coup for Priebus and the RNC: By acting quickly and forcefully, they managed to get Griffin to include Priebus by name in the official MSNBC apology. Had only Griffin stamped his name to an apology early this morning, such a concession never would have been necessary.

Probably true. But at the same time I wonder if we have become more easily indignant over everything that we immediately go postal and demand scalps and networks are much much quicker to acquiesce to said scalp hunts than things used to be. Would Carl Cameron have survived at FNC if he had penned his imaginary John Kerry article today?

Fox News quickly retracted the article, saying in an editor’s note on its Web site that the article “was written in jest and should not have been posted or broadcast.” It said, “We regret the error, which occurred because of fatigue and bad judgment, not malice.”

Did Cameron survive ten years ago because we were more forgiving back then? Or did Cameron survive because the DNC didn’t go postal like the RNC did? Or did Cameron survive because FNC wasn’t willing to fire a key asset for what could be argued was a fireable offense while MSNBC was willing to fire some anonymous staffer because they were replaceable and would it have still fired the Tweeter if it had been some name like Ed Schultz?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions but the questions are worth pondering…

MSNBC Changes Up Dayside…Removes Yet Another Hour of News…Adds More Progressive Hours

Posted in Branding Run Amok, MSNBC on January 27, 2014 by icn2

MSNBC has changed up its dayside schedule. On the one hand this does create clear definitive lines between its news anchors and its non news anchors with the newsies being grouped together from 9-1pm ET. On the other hand the network has managed to drop yet another hour of news for Progressive POV analysis.

Look at this…

1 PM – Ronan Farrow
2 PM – Joy Reid
3 PM – The Cycle
4 PM – Alex Wagner
5 PM – Ed Schultz
6 PM – Al Sharpton
7 PM – Chris Matthews
8 PM – Chris Hayes
9 PM – Rachel Maddow
10 PM – Lawrence O’Donnell

Um…does anyone else notice the complete lack of originality in this lineup? It is almost universally monotone in structure. Excepting Schultz’s fire and brimstone, Matthews’ wonkiness, and the blank slate that Ronan Farrow still basically is, you could swap these hosts and their shows around without any significant flow disruption occurring from a content standpoint. Does anyone at 30 Rock see the absolute redundancy piled upon redundancy potential at work here?

I am having a very hard time squaring this lineup with Phil Griffin’s discussion about broadening his network’s coverage this year. This lineup isn’t built for that. It is built to double down on that big Progressive bet Griffin made a few years ago. It may lock in those progressives but I fear it will lock out everyone else looking for a bit more diversity of subject matter.

Kathy O’Hearn Tapped to EP Farrow Show

Posted in MSNBC on January 16, 2014 by icn2

Politico’s Dylan Byers writes that Ronan Farrow now has an EP…

MSNBC has hired veteran news producer Kathy O’Hearn to serve as Executive Producer on Ronan Farrow’s new MSNBC program, sources familiar with her plans told POLITICO on Thursday.

O’Hearn, a former executive producer at CNN, ABC News, and CNBC, previously served as Senior Vice President at The Daily Beast. She left late last year with Tina Brown to serve as SVP on Brown’s new events and conferences venture.

And then there’s this which strongly suggests something I had long suspected…that MSNBC was not going to launch Farrow’s show until after the Olympics…

MSNBC spokesperson Lauren Skowronski declined to discuss details about Farrow’s new program.

“There have been no announcements made about Ronan Farrow’s show,” she wrote. “We’ll be announcing details in the coming weeks.”

Phil Griffin Interview…

Posted in MSNBC on January 15, 2014 by icn2

The Hollywood Reporter’s Marissa Guthrie interviews Phil Griffin about apologies and such. I’m actually surprised Griffin did this interview given that any intellectually honest examination of MSNBC’s recent string of public misfortune has been skewed badly out of context. This suggests MSNBC viewed this non-issue as a real issue. I still don’t agree…

“We handled them,” says Griffin. “We were transparent. That is our philosophy: Be factual, and step up when you make a mistake. And I don’t see that among our competition, whether it’s getting something wrong on a major story or when there are clear inaccuracies and they’re not corrected.”

Carrying Water?

Posted in MSNBC on January 8, 2014 by icn2

Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell writes about how MSNBC’s crime docs skew its ratings…

For total day viewership (6 a.m.-6 a.m.), we noted that CNN moved into second place, with MSNBC not too far behind. But when you remove MSNBC’s crime documentaries series — which constitute an unusual break from the network’s editorially progressive political content — their demo ratings (A24-54) sink lower, handing that category over to CNN as well.

CNN must be pleased with reading this. It’s the kind of thing they’d want to note. Oh, wait…it’s precisely the thing they have noted!

Without the series “Lock Up” and “Caught on Camera,” etc. MSNBC ratings fall even more dramatically, from 133k to 117k. FOX was off -5% in total viewers and down -18% in the demo 25-54 in 2013.

My gripe with Kirell’s (unintended or otherwise) hatchet job isn’t so much that he stated the obvious – that MSNBC’s crime docs boost its ratings. We all know that. No, my gripe is that Kirell ignored the fact that CNN’s taped programming, “which constitute an unusual break from” the network’s news brand, has skewed its own ratings higher.

Kirell does try to claw out an excuse for citing MSNBC’s taped programming…

This is significant because neither Fox nor CNN devote anywhere near this amount of time to airing taped tabloid/crime programming.

Accurate point…MSNBC does air more crime/tabloid taped programming, but ultimately irrelevant for two reasons.

1) That MSNBC airs more crime/tabloid taped programming vs CNN is offset by the fact that CNN is jumping headfirst into more and more tape. More tape = less time for live news. It’s like two women arguing over who is more pregnant. They’re both pregnant. Tape is tape.

2) Jeff Zucker has publicly stated that more tape will air during M-Fr primetime. That’s something that MSNBC no longer does save for the occasional Friday or holiday blast. CNN’s end goal is the same as MSNBC’s…for taped programming to boost ratings.

This story has all the markings of a story pitch. The red flag is the ratings screen grab. Unless Mediaite suddenly became a Nielsen subscriber there is no way they’d have a screen grab formatted like that. That kind of formatting is the kind used by networks. So, the question I have is which network pitched this: CNN or FNC?


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