MSNBC Removes Contessa Brewer from Anchoring…

TVNewser’s Chris Ariens is reporting that tomorrow is Contessa Brewer’s last day anchoring on MSNBC and that she’ll still be doing Caught on Camera for the network.

File this saga under the heading of “missed opportunity”. MSNBC never figured out how to properly utilize Brewer. It never placed her in an environment that would play to her strengths and it never showed much public backing for her. It basically set her up to not succeed. It didn’t brand her show. It didn’t do anything to customize the format or tailor it to her. It put the most tape (b-roll, canned reports, etc..) on her hour vs. anyone else by far. It made her hour bland. The only bone it threw her way was “Caught on Camera” and that’s just not enough.

Contessa Brewer has a unique voice for news, a compelling personality, and a following but the network never really worked to tap into any of those. If someone’s got a hook, you take hold of it and leverage it. Didn’t really happen in Brewer’s case. The only time it came close to doing so was when it paired Brewer and Melissa Francis for the twice weekly “It’s the Economy”. I hated the subject matter (the economy) but anyone who watched those shows saw a marked difference for Brewer in how she came across the air when she was doing “It’s the Economy” than when she was doing those un-necessarily boring straight news hours. Her personality and attitude came out big time. The hour had much more pace to it. If MSNBC had been paying attention and working to try and leverage Contessa it would have seized on this as the beginnings of a road map on how best to program her. But it didn’t. It cancelled “It’s the Economy” and reverted to the same unbranded, uninteresting, cookie cutter news format for her shift. And her show basically stayed that way up until the day MSNBC pulled her off the air.

In the end MSNBC basically blew it with Contessa Brewer. But this shouldn’t be a completely foreign concept to contemplate. This is after all the same network that sent Chris Jansing into LA exile for two and a half years and cut Alex Witt’s shifts in half. A pattern is starting to emerge here. MSNBC is not always clued in to the kind of talent it has at its disposal and how to best make use of it.


45 Responses to “MSNBC Removes Contessa Brewer from Anchoring…”

  1. “Let’s hire Sharpton and dump Brewer.” Brilliant.

    It’s The Economy was very good, so of course they dumped it. As I recall, it was to add an hour for Tamron Hall and David Shuster, a truly awful show.

  2. No it wasn’t. Not exactly.

  3. I wasn’t a fan of Contessa, but Tom Roberts is even worse. They really blew it by not finding something decent to do for Norah O’Donnell, and then lost her to CBS.

  4. Assuming you’re talking about Shuster & Hall, this was during Tamron’s Giggly Era. Tamron giggling, both of them shouting. I hated it.

  5. Is it safe to assume that Brewer will be leaving MSNBC as soon as her contract is up and something fills Caught On Camera?

  6. I haven’t watched Brewer in years but did she ever improve her delivery?

    IIRC, Norah was the NBC WHC and then switched with Kelly O’donnell.. And became the MSNBC WHC which basically meant she anchored instead of reporting.

    That said, for what MSNBC had Norah doing.. Letting her go is no big deal. But, I believe she’ll make her mark at CBS.

  7. starbroker Says:

    Finally, MSNBC did something right! Contessa is an absolute joke. She doesn’t even belong in local news. At least not in one in the top 50 DMA’s.

    Anyone that thinks losing Contessa is some loss is suffering from narcosis.

    Evie–losing Norah “the Dunce” O Donnell was no loss either.

    Both are major positives for the network.

    Perhaps the cluless Contessa will end up on Al Jazeera. Or she might end up on LOGO. Either one of those would be fitting for her.

  8. I never really cared for Contessa as an anchor reading the teleprompter. Her personality has always been good, but straight news was never a good role for her. She doesn’t fit the style. I can’t say I’m sad to see her go or that MSNBC is losing a big asset. It was just kind of her time .

  9. Adding to the point LS made, she’s kind of the female Keith Olbermann… kind of a train wreck waiting to happen, but somewhat entertaining. You just don’t really expect much legitimacy from her. I can’t really watch and take her seriously. So, actually, I have to kind of backtrack on liking her personality. On TV, I don’t like it, but I’m sure it’s good in a personal conversation.

  10. “Hi, my name is Star. I’m a huge tool.”

  11. Watched her some but not enough to have any valid opinions. But this non-comment makes it easier to follow everyone else’s comments.

    Wrong side of bed this morning, Spud? Or did you climb out from under it?

  12. “Hi, my name is Star. I’m a huge tool.”

    Lol… oops. I made the mistake (again) of thinking that was lonestar. They post so alike sometimes, and both have “star” in their name.

  13. starbroker Says:

    Prog Lib said: she’s kind of the female Keith Olbermann…

    One of my nicknames for her has been Mini Olbermann =)

  14. Lonestar isn’t in the habit of making vaguely anti-g@y references that have nothing to do with the topic.

  15. starbroker Says:

    Joe obviously has missed all of Contessa’s on air cheerleading for one of her causes….if he thinks LOGO has nothing to do with the topic.

    Don’t watch Contessa much do you Joe?

  16. Don’t watch Contessa much do you Joe?

    Every day, and believing in civil rights for h0m0sexuals doesn’t qualify anyone for smarta$$ cracks about LOGO. You’re a moron.

  17. I never really cared for Contessa as an anchor reading the teleprompter. Her personality has always been good, but straight news was never a good role for her. She doesn’t fit the style.

    I won’t dispute this analysis. It is a legitimate topic of discussion…whether Brewer’s delivery is best suited for the format she was working in (solo anchoring teleprompter reading).

    All I will say is that anyone who has known me since going back to the days before ICN, especially those who hung out at the TVHeads board (hi Missy), knows that I was one of the fiercest critics, if not the fiercest critic, of Brewer. I used to get in fierce battle royals on that board with her fans. I was rude. I was snarky. I was dismissive of anyone who thought she had an ounce of talent.

    It wasn’t until about three years after she joined MSNBC that my opinion started to turn. I heard from grunt level insiders (back then ICN had a small but devoted following of MSNBC grunts because I was saying publicly the same sorts of things about the network that they were saying to each other privately) that Contessa was a lot better than she was coming across on the air and I heard specific examples, which I will not get into publicly here, of why I wasn’t getting the whole story regarding Brewer’s anchoring.

    It was at that point that I started to take a second look at her. It’s not easy to set aside your well established pre-conceived notions and take a fresh look at something you thought you were so certain about. But I did and I started to finally see what she was trying to do on the air. And I began to appreciate her style.

    So this blog post is sort of a “Nixon goes to China” moment for me. Do I think we ever really got to see what Brewer could do if she had been given the chance? No. And that’s part of my point.

    MSNBC has this way of handling talent that isn’t on their pet project list…I call it the “Olbermann way”. Olbermann took a show that was nothing and on his own without any real support from the network made it into the biggest thing the network had going for it. I think that a lot of MSNBC talent on dayside, the ones the network isn’t deliberately pushing hard, are expected to go the “Olbermann way” and try to achieve success for their shifts on their own with little network support.

    This is an approach that can work on primetime and early prime because it’s all about the host. They have to extend themselves and generate buzz every day based on what they say.

    It’s much much harder to do on dayside. On dayside it’s more about the show format than the host. It’s much harder to shape a show around yourself on your own when the news is what matters and what dictates how a show flows. There’s only one person in recent cable news history who has successfully managed to do that; Rick Sanchez. Sanchez basically forced his way on to dayside by aggressively tailoring his weekend show around himself. There was a large percentage CNNers who didn’t really want Sanchez to succeed but he did.

    Sanchez’s history at CNN is atypical. It’s the exception and not the rule. Most anchors can’t do what Sanchez did. The format’s for dayside are tightly controlled by editorial which makes carving out a niche for yourself and showing the world what makes you tick and shows you at your best extremely difficult…especially if the network is indifferent to you. As was the case with Brewer.

    This isn’t to say that I was completely comfortable with everything Brewer did. I wasn’t. But I do think she was a victim of an indifferent network and some unfortunate bad luck (some of those unfortunate things that happened on the air like the lipstick incident and the Saddam cubby hole incident) that jinxed her early on in a lot of people’s eyes. It’s hard to overcome a reputation, even if it may not have been deserved.

    I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind with this. I’m just explaining how I went from being one of her biggest critics to one who could appreciate what she was trying to do on the air. It’s a style that’s rather unique and, being unique, is not going to be agreeable to everyone.

  18. I’ve never liked Contessa Brewer. She’s a horrible anchor, even worse interviewer.

    Good riddance.

  19. Contessa seems like a nice person. “Nice person” goes a long way with me, especially at 9 in the morning. I liked her show, and I’m seriously pissed that they pulled it. I’m sure I’ll be blessed with another damn hour of Thomas Roberts now. Yay.

  20. @joeremi: I’d like Veronica De La Cruz on at Noon EST. That would go a long way with me.

  21. Spud, I think Tamron Hall gets the biggest push of all the dayside anchors. I agree with that decision, she’s a better anchor than Jansing, Brewer, and Roberts.
    In my opinion.

  22. There’s no Free For All today, so I’m gonna slot this here. This is an Indycar modified to carry a passenger. Tomorrow morning that passenger is going to be me at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. Warning: Bonus Kato Kaelin content.

  23. Enjoy your racing ride, Joe. Tell him to go faster, and don’t even think for a moment about your butt sitting where Kato’s was.

  24. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about “faster”. A guy at has footage of one of them suckers spinning out. I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to wreck with a fan onboard. Gulp.

  25. Coasting to a stop in the pits or a sudden spin-out wreck, when you climb out and walk away it’ll have been a really good day.

  26. Thanks for staying on topic Joe. I didn’t put up a Free for All because yesterday’s was the last blog entry for most of today. When that situation arises, stick your current off topic stuff in the old Free for All…

  27. I’m in about the same position as Spud on this move. I like Brewer personally and think she is a competent and often excellent anchor very much like Alex Witt. Whether you like or dislike her style or performance often is a matter of ones personal preference. I don’t think she’s in Chris Jansing’s league (few are) but I would place her above Tamron Hall and way ahead of Martin Bashir in the Dayside schedule.

    Craig Melvin looks like a good solid host but why dump one good solid host for someone who is untested, especially when there seems to be no good reason to do so.

    Yet another strange move by Phil Griffin.

  28. It’s not so strange if you had the information at your disposal that I have. I’m not bragging. I’m just saying there is a logic to it based on the info I have. I think it’s a flawed logic but I do understand it.

  29. Gee Spud; that’s pretty cryptic. Are you saying Phil Griffin is implementing some grand scheme at MSNBC that you can’t comment on because the (flawed) logic is so secret that it would supplant the upcoming hurricane as the top news story on the network? Care to expand a bit on what’s involved in this logic?

  30. danoregon Says:

    Isn’t she expecting?

  31. She lost the baby. Perhaps another reason why it sucks.

  32. Contessa’s farewell classy and kinda sad. I for one will miss her.

    Huffpost linked to this post and called Spud a “critic” in their article on Brewer leaving. I’m not sure if that’s a big deal or not.

  33. Gee Spud; that’s pretty cryptic. Are you saying Phil Griffin is implementing some grand scheme at MSNBC that you can’t comment on because the (flawed) logic is so secret that it would supplant the upcoming hurricane as the top news story on the network?

    Don’t be so melodramatic. I simply mean that there’s a reason why this is has happened and I understand it but that I believe that the thinking behind the reason is more along the lines of a self-fulfilling prophecy on NBC’s part.

  34. So spud, you’re saying this has to do with the diversity issue. I doubt that would be the only reason. A lot of msnbc viewers complain about lack of diversity and the network is improving with that. Contessa in my opinion was never trusted, during the presidential elections they would take her off air(2008). She’s a good anchor, she just needs a co-anchor.

  35. So spud, you’re saying this has to do with the diversity issue. I doubt that would be the only reason.

    No I’m not. Brewer’s departure is most likely unrelated.

  36. Any thoughts on replacements? I’d love to see Jansing & Co (re) expand to 2 hours, bumping Roberts back an hour, but I doubt msnbc is that clever. My guess is Roberts will debut with a branded hour the same day as Brewer’s old hour is given to someone else and is also branded (maybe Roberts gets two hours??). That, with the branding of Alex Witt’s show, will mark the end of “msnbc live.”

  37. Witt, Brewer, Jansing, and Roberts are idiots. Sharpton and Schultz aren’t even worthy of discussion. Thank God for our only hope, Chris Hayes (now that Cenk is gone).

  38. Patrick, the slot will probably go to Craig Melvin since they just hired him.

  39. sounds like all the negitives on her are right wing bigots ,typical of what we find today on FOX! she is by far one the best thing MSNBC had going for it!

  40. […] MSNBC Removes Contessa Brewer from … – Inside Cable NewsAug 25, 2011 … Contessa Brewer has a unique voice for news, a compelling personality, and a following but the network never really worked to tap into any of … […]

  41. In response to the article…I’ve always thought that Contessa Brewer was too good for msnbc. She belongs on The Today Show, The View, etc….her appeal is much more broad than msnbc and politics, and she shines in a more conversational setting. Her agent should be targeting a different demographic and setting.

  42. Please.not the today show! she is way to good of a reporter for that !

  43. Contessa Brewer was a Retard…so funny sometimes tho when she called Jessie Jackson Rev Al Sharpton..haha miss those moments so sad to see her go! haha

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