Chris Jansing Heads South…
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?
No. It’s more about getting her off MSNBC…
The signs were all there that this was coming. The EP revolving door on her show. The lack of direction the show was being given. The fact that Phil Griffin originally was planning on slotting Ronan Farrow at 10am.
Oh…wait…you didn’t know about that one did you?
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.
But fate intervened in the form of Martin Bashir’s spectacular on air self-destruction. Now 4pm was open and soon filled by Alex Wagner which opened up 12 noon, and then MSNBC’s schedule got overhauled and all the journalists got grouped together. It’s an open question as to, had Griffin’s original intention been implemented, whether Jansing would have still been on MSNBC’s air the past few months.
Jansing is now technically in rarified company; Cable News Anchors Who Have Been Moved Off the Same Network Presided Over By the Same Network President Twice.
So, like in 2008 when she got sent packing into L.A. exile, Phil Griffin is a mean evil person who can’t judge journalistic talent and doesn’t know what he’s losing, right?
Sorry, not this time.
In 2008, most definitely. Phil didn’t know what he was giving up until it was gone. And then he wanted it back quickly but the NBC LA Bureau Chief didn’t want to give her up. He learned her value the hard way. And I’ve heard from reliable sources that he has stated that her leaving MSNBC in 2008 was one of the biggest mistakes he ever made.
But that was 2008 when MSNBC was still a news network (ok critics…stop laughing…it really was still in dayside). Now, MSNBC is a progressive POV analysis network.
Everything that makes Chris Jansing an asset to NBC News; her preparation, her relative non-partisanship (despite what you’ll read from ideological sites like NewsBusters and Democratic Underground, she really did try to play it straight as much as possible) her interest in the process of a story…especially a political story…all those plusses…are liabilities on today’s MSNBC which pushes talent to stake out positions and emphasize one point of view over another with increasingly reckless abandon.
The writing was on the wall. She just didn’t fit in there anymore. And the ratings reflected that. Her show came in dead last in the Demo last month for the network…though it fared much better in Total Viewers.
None of this had to have been lost on Griffin. He was pushing MSNBC after younger ideological viewers with his POV lineup and her show was weakest in the group he wanted most. As much as he now knew her worth, he also knew the cold hard facts. Her show wasn’t providing what the viewers he was after wanted it to provide. You can argue about the reasons…at the top of the list I’d put the dull show format and the lack of a push the network gave it compared to just about every other dayside show it had…but it didn’t work. Like Phil taking off Dan Abrams for Rachel Maddow, something that pained him quite a bit despite the success it turned out to be, a move had to be made at 10.
I want to quote something Phil Griffin wrote today…
She’s one of the hardest working journalists in the business and has always been there for us – no matter what time of day or night, or how big the story. Our heartfelt congratulations to Chris on this exciting new role.
The cynics would say sure…what else is he going to say…it’s the usual PR fluff. A lot of times if I saw something like that I would agree but not this time. This all rings true and it comes from the heart. He knows what he’s losing and as much as it stings it’s a move that is pretty much unavoidable at this point.
So in some respects this move is a win-win. Griffin gets another show off MSNBC’s air that didn’t fit in with where he wants the network headed (those dwindling few shows of that type which remain should be concerned about their long term future now), Deborah Turness gets Jansing in Washington D.C., which the grapevine suggests was a place Turness strongly wanted her to go, and Jansing takes a step in her career that she probably thought she would never be offered the opportunity of getting…a move that makes a heck of a lot more sense than the head scratching plucking of Michelle Kosinski from out of nowhere to the White House by CNN. Everyone makes out in this one to some degree.
Yes, NBC has a habit of tossing about impressive ego boosting job titles like word salad. On the foreign front it has a Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent, a Chief Global correspondent, and a Chief Foreign Correspondent. You can be excused for not being able figure out the differences between the three or which is the most senior position. I can’t. For the White House beat things are more clear. Chuck Todd still rules over all, and rightfully so. But Jansing will be his #2 if these titles mean anything. And she gets prime face time on Nightly which is primo territory only rivaled by The Today Show.
Sure, we viewers lose…at least the ones who go back with MSNBC longer than Jansing was there. We will miss her professionalism, her ability to shine in just about any situation. But unlike 2008, there isn’t really a bad taste in my mouth over this development. It was time. She had a good run. Now it’s on to other things.