There are such things as admissions against interest. MSNBC president Phil Griffin may have just offered one of those.
At a time of intensely high interest in news, MSNBC’s ratings declined from the same period a year ago by about 20 percent. The explanation, in the network’s own analysis, comes down to this: breaking news is not really what MSNBC does.
“We’re not the place for that,” said Phil Griffin, the channel’s president, in reference to covering breaking events as CNN does. “Our brand is not that.”
The brand, one MSNBC has cultivated with success, is defined by its tagline, “The Place for Politics,” and a skew toward left-wing, progressive political talk, the opposite of the conservative-based approach that has worked well for Fox News.
MSNBC may be making the same mistake that liberal talk radio makes, which is to rely more on personalities, government boosterism and the same old arguments than on current information. Rush Limbaugh is a peerless master of his artform, but one of the things that make his show work and attract an audience is that Rush deals with breaking news in real time. He calls himself “America’s anchorman” and lives up to the name, reacting to news at it happens if it happens during his show. When I produced the Laura Ingraham Show, we did the same thing. If news was breaking, we were on it and Laura was reacting to it in the moment. People will turn to personalities they trust when news breaks, but only if those personalities have a reputation for dealing with breaking news.
MSNBC has become the last place anyone would turn for breaking news. It’s all politics (or prison documentaries) all the time. Fox, CNN and HLN are go-tos for breaking news, as is Drudge. Who in their right mind would turn to Larry O’Donnell or Rachel Maddow or Al Sharpton to handle breaking news? All of MSNBC’s hosts are just leftist comfort food, and targets of mockery for the right.
Now, the network’s own president has let the cat out of the bag: They don’t even really care about news at that network. What should NBC’s real reporters, the few of them left at the mother ship, make of this admission? For one thing, they’re now stuck with a losing team, and the team is choosing to stay on a path that’s a ratings dead end.
As Allahpundit put it, this is brand-killing stupidity. CNN went out and got Jake Tapper from ABC to bolster its hard news lineup, while MSNBC landed…Al Sharpton? The dishonest, bloody-handed reverend isn’t even a good get for a guest slot, much less to host a high profile show, however he might resist we much. He doesn’t attract a broad audience, and he’s a buffoon. He’s a credibility killer with everyone but the far left. Match him up with Scary Larry and Chris Tingles Matthews and you have a clown car masquerading as network, and not even a news network anymore. Griffin has delivered an unintentional message to NBC’s few remaining real reporters: Don’t waste your time slumming with us.