Archive for the MSNBC Category

Washington Williams Turmoil…

Posted in MSNBC on April 23, 2015 by icn2

Over the weekend and going back to last week we had a bunch of “Bring Brian back” type stories trying to force the issue. I mention this because of Paul Farhi’s interestingly timed must read in the Washington Post on major blowback from NBC’s D.C. bureau about Williams coming back. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’ve seen too much in this industry to not wonder if this is pushback to all the “positive” Williams stories recently.

The meeting — details of which haven’t been made public before — was called in the wake of Williams’s six-month suspension from anchoring “NBC Nightly News,” the network’s signature newscast. Turness met with the division’s employees in New York and Washington to answer questions about the suspension and to get their feedback on the crisis enveloping the company.

One person who attended the Washington meeting described the overall tone as a “bloodbath” for Williams. But another news employee tempered that characterization, describing the atmosphere merely as “very raw” and colleagues as “shocked.” The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

In any case, the bureau staff offered a strong rebuke of Williams, whose troubles were still fresh in the news at the time. Among those who spoke against him were two of the network’s on-air correspondents, attendees said.

And don’t think NBC isn’t aware of how toxic this could be…

NBC sources in New York, however, caution that the meeting took place during a period of peak stress for the division and that some of the more extreme sentiments may have calmed down in the weeks since then.

Ouch. Not even a definitive statement countering what happened in D.C. The best these sources could come up with falls into the category glass half full.

More important: The NBC sources in New York apparently have no idea what the folks in D.C. are feeling right now. How do we know this? Because, again, there’s no definitive statement saying that things have indeed calmed down. Only a theory that they may have. Or a plaintive hope, if you will.

This means one of two things:

1) Either Farhi’s sources aren’t connected enough to what goes on down in D.C.; which if true raises the question of why Farhi’s bothering with them in the first place.

2) Or, Fahri’s sources are indeed that connected but they just don’t know what’s going on down in D.C. which indicates a major rift exists between the New York and Washington bureaus to the point that New York doesn’t know the current mood in Washington.

MSNBC Talent Tax Issues…

Posted in MSNBC on April 22, 2015 by icn2

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple documents some pretty bad optics regarding certain MSNBC POV hosts and their positions on taxation when compared to their own tax problems.

Harris-Perry has said that her tax debt stems from 2013, but still: She and these other tax-payment-challenged TV personalities work for the network of activist, problem-solving government. Just watch one of MSNBC’s famous “Lean In” commercials or scan a day’s worth of coverage. In the collective ethic of MSNBC, there can be no excuse for tax delinquency.

Yeah, that’s not good. However, then Wemple tries to get MSNBC on the record…

And there’s even less of an excuse for MSNBC’s non-response to all this news. National Review fetched no response from the network. When the Erik Wemple Blog knocked today, the network again clammed up. A spokeswoman offered to go off-record with an explanation of things. We responded that we weren’t interested in spin that we couldn’t publish. Is it that hard for MSNBC to take a simple stand in favor of our common civic obligations?

I disagree vehemently that it’s MSNBC’s position or responsibility to have a public comment on this issue. These aren’t corporate officers we’re talking about here…people who have to answer to shareholders. These are staff…publicly facing staff but staff nontheless. This is a gotcha question wrapped up in a poison pill. It’s a lose-lose scenario. Any competent PR office is going to avoid this issue like the plague.

The network is not responsible for its staffers paying their taxes beyond their legal obligations concerning realm of standard witholding. The only question that matters is whether not paying your taxes amounts to a firing offense for the network. I think the obvious answer here is it’s not going to be. Nor should it be.

That does’t mean that comment shouldn’t be sought. But it should be sought from the parties accused, not the company that employs them. Granted, given this situation you have to go through the company to get the parties accused to comment but who seriously believes any of them would comment in the first place? I don’t.

Yes, they’re hypocrites. But that hypocrisy stops with them. It doesn’t extend to their employer, particularly when their employer hasn’t staked out any prior public position on the merits or lack thereof of the tax system. Had MSNBC done so, then it would be appropriate to seek comment from the network for these incidents. But that didn’t happen…

Ed Schultz in Court…

Posted in MSNBC on April 21, 2015 by icn2

I’ve been ignoring this story so far because I seriously questioned if it would ever make it to court. It’s not the kind of thing one would think Ed Schultz would want to go through. Few people in the public spotlight of cable news let things get this far with a few notable exceptions. But apparently Schultz does want it to get to trial. The Daily Caller’s Betsy Rothstein writes about the latest in the lawsuit.

Lawyers for Schultz and Michael Queen, the former business partner he allegedly bamboozled, filed a pre-trial statement Monday laying out exhibits and witnesses for the trial.

They include: former NBC News president Steve Capus, CNN worldwide president Jeffrey Zucker, MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter (gee, he’ll be objective), former NBC “Meet the Press” director Max Schindler and Schultz’s wife, Wendy.

The video recorded deposition of MSNBC president Phil Griffin will be played in part.

Schultz himself is expected to testify for up to five hours.

This could prove highly entertaining..

Chris Matthews to Interview Obama

Posted in MSNBC on April 19, 2015 by icn2

MSNBC announced that Chris Matthews will be interviewing President Obama Tuesday…


On Tuesday, April 21, Chris Matthews will sit down exclusively with President Barack Obama to talk about free trade and news of the day. The interview will air during MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. ET.

Ari Melber Named MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent…

Posted in MSNBC on April 15, 2015 by icn2

Politico’s Hadas Gold writes that Ari Melber has been named to MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent…

Melber’s appointment comes amid a larger effort to shakeup dayside programming at the network, though an MSNBC spokesperson was quick to say that Melber’s new role is no sign of changes for “The Cycle.” Like many of MSNBC’s daytime programs, “The Cycle’s” ratings have suffered significant declines. On one day in March, the program had fewer viewers than Al Jazeera America, though a spokesperson pointed out that last Friday the show had 75,000 viewers in the demo, their best since January.

Thus begets the question: If Melber’s appointment is no sign of changes for “The Cycle”, how does this move the needle in terms of the “larger effort to shakeup dayside programming”? It doesn’t. Mediaite’s Joe Concha loves the move

Talk to anyone who watches MSNBC–and it’s understood the number of those actually watching continues to drop as the network endures its toughest stretch in at least a decade–and many will tell you that its most unsung and therefore underrated host is the 34-year-old Melber. What makes the Michigan and Cornell Law grad stand out? From my perspective, it’s quite simple: his genuine curiosity to find the why and the how behind the stories he covers.

Concha inadvertently underscores the problem MSNBC faces while at the same time showing why Melber’s promotion, while maybe deserved, isn’t going to contribute to solving it.

MSNBC’s problem is equal parts perception, momentum, and genuine format rejection. You can’t separate the three because they all tie in together.

The tune out…the initial tune out which started a couple of years ago…was textbook format rejection. Too many viewers were no longer buying into what Phil Griffin was trying to sell; a network built around POV analysis fronted by young cookie cutter wonkish progressives. While such a format might have worked if offset by a counter strategy that offered something different, Griffin tried to cover too much of MSNBC with it and that kind of uniformity was rejected by the viewers.

That rejection created a perception problem…that MSNBC was in trouble. It was a perception firmly grounded in reality but it was a perception that took on the form of conventional wisdom; a conventional wisdom which got driven home by articles in the media. This in turn created downward momentum pressure. No longer was MSNBC being trumpeted as the hip network of the wonky left…the kind of positive message the network tried like hell to cultivate and emphasize. Now the network was being talked about as the boring network where one wonky left show followed another.

That message has done as much damage to MSNBC’s viewership as the initial tune out did. It re-enforced a downward ratings spiral the network has yet to stem the tide on. And it has spread throughout MSNBC’s lineup and has contributed to trouble on Morning Joe, a show which still functions nearly the same as it used to but is now viewed as “out of step”. That’s what perception and momentum can do to a show through no fault of its own.

This is the cable news equivalent of a bank run. A perfectly healthy bank, or in this case a marginally healthy bank, is suddenly viewed as unhealthy. What happens next? Depositors withdraw their funds and now the bank is in fact unhealthy and it stands a very real chance of collapsing. Same thing here. Enough articles come out saying MSNBC is screwed up and people start saying, “Why do I want to be associated with it?” Perception creates momentum and momentum, in this case negative momentum, speeds up tune out.

CNN faced a similar problem just a few years ago. CNN’s programming wasn’t nearly as bad, it’s news delivery not as terrible, and yet the perception and momentum was out there that it was. So things continued to slide until Jeff Zucker came along and changed the equation with a radical rethink. While I’m still not a fan of the strategy of using what amounts to infotainment instead of news as its bridgehead, the strategy worked. It broke the downward pressure. We can argue about whether CNN is cool again or not but that’s a better alternative than the storyline of “CNN is broken” which the network had to contend with previously.

What MSNBC needs now is a similar kind of wholesale rethink of the network’s focus which can break that downward momentum “MSNBC is boring” message pressure. MSNBC needs to think big and think radical. Just as CNN did.

But we haven’t seen that, at least not yet. What we have seen are changes on the fringes. Cancelling the low hanging fruit shows like Farrow and Reid’s while preserving the heart of the network’s wonky POV analysis lineup. MSNBC has not thown in the towel, it has just waved it around a bit. It’s tinkering 101.

Does anyone think Hayes’ show has any chance of turning things around? I mean does anyone outside of MSNBC think it? Yet, there it still is. Are we reading at all about big turn arounds for The Cycle or Alex Wagner’s show? No, we are not. Is NBC still showing the same level of confidence in Maddow that it’s still putting her on the air outside of MSNBC like it would just a year or two ago. No, it isn’t.

This is a classic holding action. MSNBC is still betting the farm on a system that brought it to where it currently is. It’s rearranging the deck chairs instead of fixing the hole in the side of the ship. The latest deck chair to be moved is Ari Melber’s.

Inside Comcast’s Mess…

Posted in MSNBC on April 6, 2015 by icn2

In your must read for the week, if not the next month, Vanity Fair’s Bryan Burrough writes about the mess that is NBC News and how Comcast contributed to it…

Officially, in a damage-control mode where almost no one will be interviewed freely and on the record, NBC News declined comment for this article. Unofficially, its loyalists cooperated extensively. While admitting the occasional misstep, they reject the harsh critiques that have trailed in the wake of the Williams scandal, blaming them on a coterie of departed executives, including former NBCUniversal C.E.O. Jeff Zucker and former NBC News chief Steve Capus, who resigned under pressure in 2013. “We know the people saying these things about us, and we know why,” one NBC partisan told me. “Because five years later we are still cleaning up the mess they left behind.”


“Andy Lack’s genius was he gave Jeff and Tim and Neal Shapiro the freedom to run,” says a former NBC News executive who worked closely with everyone involved. “Over the next 15 years NBC News really became the envy of the broadcast world. Today, Nightly, Meet the Press: they were all No. 1 [in their categories]. And they really did help set the agenda for the national discussion.”

After Lack’s departure, to Sony Music Entertainment in 2003, Zucker eventually ascended to take control of NBCUniversal, a position he still held in 2009, when the financial crisis prompted General Electric to streamline its far-flung businesses, a strategy that included selling NBCUniversal to Comcast. NBC News executives had been close to G.E. executives, including C.E.O. Jack Welch, but they soon developed a strong sense that Comcast’s top executives, Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, didn’t value the art of talent management quite so highly.
Continue reading

White House Correspondents Profile…

Posted in Al Jazeera, CNN, FNC, MSNBC on March 31, 2015 by icn2

Washington Life Magazine’s Virginia Coyne profiles a group of White House correspondents. Among them are several cable newsers including CNN’s Jim Acosta, FNC’s Ed Henry, NBC/MSNBC’s Chris Jansing, and Al Jazeera America’s Mike Viqueira. The story on the website is in-line PDF only so no quotes are coming since I’m wayyyy too lazy to transcribe it.


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