It’s an uncertain time at MSNBC. A new Captain is taking control of the ship after the old one was effectively ousted over accusations of sexual harassment, and it would appear that MSNBC’s staffers aren’t too confident in their new leader’s abilities.
According to the New York Post, new MSNBC President Rashida Jones is being described as “buttoned-up,” “young,” and “lacking a creative vision” for the network. Not helping matters is the fact that Jones doesn’t seem to have high-profile connections that could draw viewers to the network. This is all a huge problem, especially with Rachel Maddow, the network’s most popular personality, eyeing the door and planning to depart in the near future.
Jones’s plan seems to be more geared toward focusing on breaking news instead of personality-driven programming, including during the prime time hours, which have staffers feeling that her inexperience is seemingly stopping her from seeing the point of prime-time shows.
“We need to embrace our brand on primetime or we are going to lose big-time,” one employee said.
A source within MSNBC, the prime time problem is going to be Jones’s test and she’s setting herself up for failure. Her faith in MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace is misplaced according to staffers as Wallace has made it clear that she doesn’t want to do the job that Jones wants her to:
According to a source, Jones had earmarked Nicolle Wallace, who currently hosts “Deadline White House” and fills in as a political anchor, to take Maddow’s 9 p.m. show on a temporary basis had Maddow left the network in August.
“In every interview Rashida does, she points to Nicolle as the future,” said an MSNBC insider. “But I know for a fact that Nicolle does not want to work late nights.”
Although Wallace has been a workhorse for the network, her star power doesn’t approach Maddow’s. What’s more, Wallace, who is going through a divorce and has a young son, has been vocal about not wanting to work late nights.
“Nicolle Wallace does not want to work a second later” than she already does, the source said. “She is already making north of $2 million now, which is enough,” the source said, adding that even if the network threw more money at her, Wallace’s priority is her family.
Jones is reportedly also wanting to put a lot of focus on weekend shows, a strategy that insiders say is a losing one as weekends have always been a weak time for ratings.
“People have never watched on the weekend except for [prison documentary] ‘Lockup,’” the source said according to the Post. “Weekends are not a winner for CNN, either. It feels like a waste of time.”
Morale isn’t being helped by the fact that staffers can’t help but compare Jones to her predecessor, Phil Griffin. Griffin was described as a “team-builder, who built confidence in the talent and staff” and “gave people a sense of belonging and a common goal.” This has now been replaced by “a colder, corporate feeling” under Jones. According to one source, Griffin would boost people with ideas, but there’s no longer a pipeline for them.
“She’s very organized, but it just ends up feeling canned,” the source said of Jones.
How this ends up playing out remains to be seen, but MSNBC does have something to lose. In the cable news rating game, it consistently comes second behind Fox News, and by a good margin. However, it does beat out CNN, especially during Prime Time. In its current state, should Maddow vacate the network and Jones gear it toward news coverage, it’s unlikely to keep that silver medal in the face of personality-driven content from the likes of CNN’s Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo.