Archive for the MSNBC Category

Rachel Racusen to Head MSNBC PR…

Posted in MSNBC on November 21, 2014 by icn2

White House Associate Communications Director Rachel Racusen has joined MSNBC and will be its VP of Communications.

Today MSNBC announced the hiring of Rachel Racusen as its new VP of communications.

Racusen, who will handle comms and media strategy while partnering with editorial and business leads at the network, will also serve as MSNBC’s primary spokesperson moving forward.

For those of you wondering if this was an accident or coincidence…it apparently wasn’t

We just heard from an anonymous source who applied for a top media relations job at the network. The source tells us that the planned rebranding played a large role in the interview process and that MSNBC demanded someone with close “White House connections” for the job.

I am very curious how someone with “White House connections” can make a difference in a PR position for a cable network. How will this play out? More outreach to progressive blogs? Bypassing traditional media outlets? What’s going to happen next?

Al Sharpton Organization: Tax Delinquent?

Posted in MSNBC on November 18, 2014 by icn2

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple writes about a New York Times article on an Al Sharpton organization’s tax problems…

“Mr. Sharpton has regularly sidestepped the sorts of obligations most people see as inevitable, like taxes, rent and other bills,” claims the piece. Even with his tax liabilities, notes the story, Sharpton “traveled first class and collected a sizable salary.”

Though he anchors “Politics Nation” on MSNBC on weeknights, Sharpton is a target of far greater resonance than a cable news host. The longtime rabble-rousing Brooklyn preacher and civil rights activist has become a player of national import under the Obama administration. As explained in an August piece in Politico Magazine by Glenn Thrush, Sharpton had transformed himself into the Obama administration’s “go-to man on race.” After the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August, Sharpton established himself as the “de facto contact and conduit for a jittery White House seeking to negotiate a middle ground between meddling and disengagement.”

All of which makes him a large and fair target for a newspaper investigation.

And then we get to the (relevant to this blog) part of the Wemple’s article…

MSNBC has all but invited this embarrassment. As the Erik Wemple Blog has reported, Sharpton negotiated his contract with MSNBC under the stipulation that his work as an activist would continue. In remarks in D.C. last year, Sharpton recalled what he told MSNBC President Phil Griffin about his status: “I said, well, I’m still going to run NAN, I’m still going to be an activist.” Griffin responded positively. “He said, ‘Put it in the contract. We’d never interfere with what you’re doing, your civil rights work,’” Sharpton quoted Griffin as saying.

On one level, Sharpton’s various hats carry implications for the ethics of his work at MSNBC. Being an anchor on a news network while also serving as a big shot at the White House and the head of a civil rights group creates a jumble of undiagrammable — and almost unknowable — conflicts of interest.

Yet the other level of concern is precisely what the Times has exposed: Sharpton Inc. is a sprawling concern, clearly more than one overbooked man can handle. By employing Sharpton as a prominent figure in its news rotation, MSNBC must own the failings of his empire. A spokeswoman for MSNBC says the network has no comment on the situation.

Well now we have two cable news networks with increasingly radioactive hosts; CNN with Fareed Zakaria and MSNBC with Al Sharpton. Some will say Sharpton already was radioactive and there is truth in that. However most of Sharpton’s prior baggage has been of the divisive ideological kind…a type of radioactivity that MSNBC was inoculated against because it was craving the demographic Sharpton catered to. But tax troubles and fiscal administration issues are a different kind of radioactivity which crosses ideological boundaries relatively intact.

Phil Griffin on MSNBC.com’s One Year Anniversary…

Posted in MSNBC on November 6, 2014 by icn2

The Wrap’s Jordan Chariton, who has quickly stolen the title of “Unofficial Conduit to MSNBC of Choice” from The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie (Three leaks in just one week?!?! A blind man could draw a line connecting those together), gets a hold of…wait for it…another internal memo from Phil Griffin on the one year anniversary of the launch of the new MSNBC.com…

“It took a huge amount of work, but we did it. And the results have been amazing,” MSNBC’s president tells staff

A year after MSNBC.com launched, network president thanked staff Thursday.

“One year ago we set out to create a true digital home for MSNBC’s passionate community to engage with us and each other,” Giffin said in a memo obtained by TheWrap. “It took a huge amount of work, but we did it. And the results have been amazing.”

MSNBC’s Evolving Strategy…

Posted in MSNBC on November 4, 2014 by icn2

The Wrap’s Jordan Chariton writes about MSNBC’s evolving programming strategy…one that seems to be centered on getting its talent out on the road more often.

And in the heat of summer, MSNBC sent Chris Hayes and anchor Craig Melvin to cover the chaotic scene in Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The duo bunkered down there for a full week of coverage, making news as the victims of rocks being thrown by protestors. Hayes interviewed police officials and protestors on his primetime show throughout the week.

Insiders familiar with that programming decision told TheWrap sending Hayes to Ferguson was simple: it was a story MSNBC should own, and the network couldn’t analyze the issue from the sidelines while its competitors had multiple anchors on the ground, covering the story wall-to-wall.

It also should be noted it was Hayes, one of the more reporter-focused commentators on the network–and not Al Sharpton, a polarizing opinion host at MSNBC most linked with race-related stories–to report on the ground in Ferguson.

Insiders familiar with the network’s strategy told TheWrap the pivot from solely covering the nitty gritty of D.C. politics from studios to thrusting talent into the places most affected by the politics is just a small part of a broader strategy the network is still developing. As speculated, that could include programming and talent changes in the coming months.

Jose Diaz Balart to Anchor Two Hour Daily Rundown…

Posted in MSNBC on October 30, 2014 by icn2

The Wrap’s Jordan Chariton writes that Jose Diaz Balart will get The Daily Rundown which will now air for two hours.

The morning show formerly hosted by Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie will be anchored from Miami starting November

The MSNBC show left behind by Chuck Todd now has a host in the form of José Díaz-Balart, who will anchor an expanded “Daily Rundown” from 9 a.m.-11 a.m., individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

The Miami-based Díaz-Balart, who debuted on MSNBC at 10 a.m. in July and also anchors an evening newscast on Telemundo, will anchor the morning show that under Todd was based in D.C. and focused on politics.

What gets me is Phil Griffin’s not so internal internal memo that just happened to get leaked to Chariton…this part in particular…

Jose Diaz-Balart joined the msnbc family in July and is already off to a great start. He’s introduced new voices and a fresh perspective to our network. Thanks to his deep experience as an anchor he has the ability and flexibility to deliver dynamic coverage of breaking news events – as they develop.

There are internal memos which are designed for internal consumption and just happen to get leaked. And then there are internal memos which are designed for external consumption and must get leaked in order to be successful. This is the latter.

Griffin is so nakedly obvious in what he’s doing here it’s embarrassing. He writes an internal memo which ticks off all his recent public talking points. You don’t do that for an internal memo you want to send your employees. You do that when you want to send out a press release in the form of an internal memo.

Spin Control…

Posted in MSNBC on October 13, 2014 by icn2

The New York Times’ Bill Carter writes about MSNBC’s ratings woes…

Rachel Maddow, the biggest star on the MSNBC cable network, just posted her lowest quarterly ratings results ever.

“Morning Joe,” MSNBC’s signature morning program, scored its second-lowest quarterly ratings, reaching an average of just 87,000 viewers in the key news demographic group.

And “Ronan Farrow Daily,” the network’s heavily promoted new afternoon show, which stars a 26-year-old Rhodes Scholar with a high-profile Hollywood lineage, has been largely a dud.

Ouch…

But then there’s this…

MSNBC consciously established its brand as politics-centric, approaching stories from a left-of-center viewpoint, in deliberate contrast to the right-of-center approach of Fox News, which continues to dominate the news channel ratings. At the same time, MSNBC moved away from a close relationship with NBC News that it had during the early years of the network. Today, fewer NBC News correspondents appear on MSNBC.

Mr. Griffin said that a general apathy about American politics has also hurt the network. “You can look at the dysfunction in Washington, the wariness about politics, the low approval ratings,” he said. “That’s had an impact. But we’ve got to adjust; we’ve got to evolve.”

Hmmmm…is this Phil Griffin signalling that MSNBC is moving off of politics…at least to some extent?

One longtime news executive who has worked for both network and cable news organizations said the problem with “Morning Joe” was partly a broader issue with MSNBC. “ ‘Morning Joe’ has been hurt because no one is tuning in to watch the channel now; they go right by,” he said. “The show took its eye off the ball, but you can’t discount the fact that nobody is watching the channel.”

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
The executive, who asked not to be identified because of potential future business with MSNBC, said Ms. Maddow remains a draw, but her format has grown tired. “In terms of Rachel, everybody knows every night what she’s going to say,” he said. “The network just doesn’t surprise you.”

Oooohh…talking out of school in the same article that Griffin tries to position MSNBC’s story for Carter? Not good.

As for MSNBC, Mr. Griffin remained optimistic despite the challenges. He defended the network’s approach, but also hinted that it had to broaden its programming beyond politics.

“We have a good brand, a strong brand,” he said. “But we’ve got to get outside Washington and open up our aperture a little.”

No argument on the second point. But as to the first…if MSNBC’s brand is so stron…so good…why have its ratings gone so south. The whole point of having a strong brand is it allows you to weather the storm better.

The MSNBC Pendulum Swingeth?

Posted in MSNBC on October 9, 2014 by icn2

The Daily Caller’s Betsy Rothstein writes about MSNBC avoiding its old “The place for politics” charter…

“MSNBC is under pressure to cut costs,” an MSNBC insider tells The Mirror, explaining that there is a real push from Philadelphia to do more breaking news and less politics.

If true this is a strange twist straight out of the Twilight Zone given that MSNBC has moved to POV Analysis with POV hosts…the very people who are the least credible when breaking news erupts. Indeed, the network just let one of its top two breaking news assets leave the network for the White House. Can you picture Ronan Farrow covering a terrorist attack? Joy Reid covering a natural disaster? The Cycle hosts covering a plane crash? Alex Wagner covering a market meltdown? See the problem?

The insider added, “The need for political experts is waning, which means many political contracts won’t be renewed and Goldie Taylor happens to be part of that collateral damage. She understands politics, but she has never worked in politics. [Things are] shifting to a large degree. It’s not that we don’t cover politics. CNN has been the place for breaking news. There’s nothing MSNBC can do about that. People leave Fox News when there’s breaking news.”

And we stay in the Twilight Zone because this leaker inadvertently points out an inherent contradiction in this approach. The whole reason to do more breaking news is on the theory that MSNBC needs more news becaues POV hasn’t been working well lately in the ratings. And yet the leaker admits that the network isn’t the place people go to for breaking news. So the question looms: what’s the point?

BTW, none of this seems to jell with Phil “I’m in this (POV) for the long haul” Griffin’s recent doubling down on finding new voices. This means that either the leaker is just causing mischief or Comcast really does want MSNBC to do more breaking news which would undermine everything Griffin recently said on the subject.

Either way, Phil Griffin will be pissed at this coming out…true or not.

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