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.

11 Responses to “Talking Head Primetime Invades Daytime: Chapter 6”

  1. Yes, I used a dirty word. Bad Spud…

  2. Don’t forget about the horror Nancy whats-her-face will be at noon with a medical show. If I want to watch people talking about overactive bladders, sexual dysfunction, and obesity I will watch The Doctors, Dr. Oz’s new show, or Reruns of Rosanne, respectively.

    Now the only open hour is what, 2 pm? I guess that is where Norah is headed.

  3. Nancy isn’t there because of Phil Griffin so Griffin can’t be blamed for that. Nancy’s there because of Jeff Immelt.

  4. You raised the key matter that could stop or mitigate this: a backlash from the news people.

    So, why the silence from the news division?

    Economics? Fear of loss of jobs? Political sympathies?

  5. Not only is it bad for NBC, MSNBC and journalistic integrity in general…it’s awful. Shuster, Tamron Hall, now Watson. They’re just irritating, and knowing that Carlos isn’t even a journalist makes it worse.

    I feel sorry for Contessa being sunk by this mess, and don’t even get me started about her supposed bias. I think she’s a good reporter and judging by a lot of her small-town-girl-isms, is probably moderately conservative. I wish they would push her show with Melissa Francis more. I’d take a couple hours of that over Shuster/Hall/Watson any day.

  6. A cargo cult is running MSNBC with Fox as the more advanced civilization.

    Okay, got a better answer?

  7. joeremi Says:

    Three questions:

    Shuster, what’s with the creepy fake laugh?

    Hall, what are you yelling at?

    Watson, why are you leaning on your desk? You’re not Rick Sanchez and I’m not gonna read your tweets.

  8. If people want straight news, they can go to BBC World News, NPR, PBS, Bloomberg, English Al Jazeera, and etc. It’s not like MSNBC, CNN, and Fox turning to opinion is restriciting the flow of “hard” information. Plenty of alternatives out there.

    Though, I have a strong suspicion that these “hard” news channels and shows have anemic ratings.

  9. Remember that horrible Olympics show on MSNBC with Tamron? She has been getting even worse ever since.

  10. stevemg Says:

    Liberal opinion is now welcome on Dayside too.

    So, is management telling (ordering?) the daytime reporters to be openly liberal or is management telling the reporters to be more opinionated and their liberalism is coming through?

  11. If people want straight news, they can go to BBC World News,

    Not available in most locals


    Radio only and severely slanted in a particular direction.

    PBS, One hour a night. Doesn’t cover news during the day.


    Heavy emphasis on business news.

    English Al Jazeera

    Not available in most locales.

    You’ve just made my point. In order to get the straight news on TV, one has to search far and wide to find it. If CNN International was available more widely, it would do. BBC World News would do better. Problem is neither are available that widely and we mainly have CNN, FNC, MSNBC, and HLN to choose from.

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