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Paramount Global Removes MTV News Website - A Look Back at Vintage MTV

Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Maybe it is just a case of when we lose something from childhood or young adulthood we tend to get nostalgic and look back fondly at it. Something from a generation of Americans' young adulthoods quietly went away recently. On Monday, the MTV News website was shut down. Because this is how the internet works, more than twenty years of music news content has — "poof" — disappeared. 

Paramount Global, the parent company of MTV News, made the announcement, and it appears that CMT.com, the sister site of MTV News, also hit the chopping block. The demise of MTV News is kind of the death knell of the concept of MTV as a whole and yet a reminder of just how different and groundbreaking it was back in the day.

MTV News itself was shut down in 2023 as layoffs hit 25 percent of Showtime, MTV Entertainment Studios, and Paramount Media Network Groups. Now, anyone looking to access the MTV News website is directed to the main MTV website. The closure marks a rather muted end to what began at the height of MTV popularity, known then as "The Week in Rock," hosted by Kurt Loder.

Cable TV was in its infancy when MTV blew onto our television screens in August of 1981 with the first video played, a quirky 80s thing called "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles. As a 16-year-old high school sophomore, I was MTV's prime target audience. MTV provided not only a chance to hear your favorite music but also to see your favorite bands and singers performing the music. It turned videos into a true art form. Some of the more prolific video performers back then were Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Duran Duran. The 1980s were the decade of "hair bands," the bands, mostly heavy metal, whose long-haired members accentuated all that hair, creating a whole new subgenre of rock. MTV did not disappoint their hairband audience. Bands like Ratt, Cinderella, and Motley Crue took up a lot of MTV real estate. 

Part of the fun of MTV videos was watching the videos deemed "controversial." Those videos would be tame by today's standards, but what hormonal teenager didn't try to catch, when they finally did air, Madonna's "Justify My Love," George Michael's "I Want Your Sex," or just about anything from Prince? In the case of his Royal Purpleness, two words come to mind, "Darling Nikki." 

There wasn't much of MTV that didn't influence teenagers in that era. Teenage girls copied the cross necklaces, bangle bracelets, and miniskirts of Madonna, and boys were copying the ripped jeans of the hair bands. If it wasn't the artists' videos themselves, it was videos from movies. "Flashdance," and its star, Jennifer Beals, introduced teenage girls to off-the-shoulder sweatshirts and women in general to leg warmers. You were also hard-pressed to find teen girls who didn't have a pair of white Keds tennis shoes like the ones worn by Jennifer Grey in "Dirty Dancing." Full disclosure: I still wear mine.

While MTV introduced American kids to music genres like hip-hop, rap, and grunge, it was also branching out to information. "The Week in Rock" debuted in September 1987, and Kurt Loder came on as a permanent host in February 1988. "The Week in Rock" reported on any music news there was, new music, tours, videos, and any other news related to artists and bands. It was about this time that "The Week in Rock" morphed into MTV News and began reporting on things like censorship, addiction, and gun violence — anything that affected the lives of young people. They began encouraging young people to vote and scored interviews with candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. 

When I look back, those early days of MTV really did influence an entire generation of young people who were coming of age in the era of Ronald Reagan. In a very pre-internet world, our clothes, our social lives, and our attitudes were shaped by what and who we watched on MTV. It is a completely different animal now, with nothing but reality shows and no music for as far as the eye can see. Everyone thinks their generation's teen years were the best, but wow, what a heady time to be a teenager in the golden age of MTV. 

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