MSNBC Names Rashida Jones Its New President, She Is The First Black Woman To Lead A Cable News Network
UNITED STATES — MSNBC announced Monday night (December 7) that Rashida Jones, the senior vice president for MSNBC News, will be its next president, making her the first Black woman to head a cable news network.
Jones succeeds Phil Griffin, who has worked at MSNBC since its launch in 1996, including the last 12 years as its president, and is the chief architect of the network’s identify as a liberal alternative to Fox News, creating such media stars as Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Joe Scarborough. Jones will officially assume her new post on February 1.
Jones, 39, currently oversees daytime news coverage for the network and breaking news and specials for NBC’s broadcast news division.
Her promotion, announced by Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, is another big shake-up in the network’s management ranks. Mr. Conde, who formerly ran Telemundo, took over the news division this year after Andrew Lack departed following a bumpy tenure.
Ms. Jones, who once served as director of live programming for the Weather Channel, joined NBCUniversal seven years ago. MSNBC staff members took notice of what has been a steady ascent: Beginning last year, she was the executive producer for a pair of primary debates that set ratings records for a Democratic presidential contest.
This past April, she was handed oversight of MSNBC’s daytime news coverage, and within three months, she had added weekend news programming to her portfolio. By the fall, Ms. Jones produced two town-hall events with the 2020 presidential candidates and helped supervise preparation for Kristen Welker, the NBC correspondent who moderated the second presidential debate to glowing reviews.
In a memo to employees, Mr. Conde praised Ms. Jones’s “laserlike focus and grace under pressure.”
Ms. Jones will assume control of a news network that reached ratings highs as a safe space for liberals enraged by President Trump, and is now pondering how to retain those viewers after the chief villain of its prime-time programming leaves office.
In a farewell memo on Monday, Mr. Griffin recalled his more than three decades at NBC, including memories of working with Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel at the “Today” show and a late-night reporting trip with Tom Brokaw in Somalia.
Mr. Griffin wrote on Monday that, after Election Day, he told NBC leadership “that the time felt right to hang up my cleats.”
He also invoked less happy times at MSNBC, noting the network in its early days “had trouble breaking through.” He recalled that during a rather fallow ratings period, the former NBC chairman Bob Wright greeted him with a not-so-flattering nickname: “Hey, flatliner.”
By the time Trump took office in 2017, MSNBC was surging back. Last month, amid a bruising election and the resurgence of the coronavirus, the network notched its highest viewership numbers in a quarter-century
Photos Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC