BY STUART EMMRICH
MSNBC announced Monday that Rashida Jones, the senior vice president for MSNBC and NBC News, will be its next president, making her the first Black woman to head a major television 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 (who shares her name with a famed actor) was most recently in charge of breaking-news coverage across both NBC News and MSNBC, as well as daytime and weekend news programming at MSNBC. She played a key role in reworking the network’s daytime and weekend schedules, which has given more time to the rising star Nicolle Wallace (while, perhaps not coincidentally, also minimizing the presence of Meet the Press host of Chuck Todd). The network has also added more anchors from diverse backgrounds to its Saturday and Sunday schedules; just last week, Jonathan Capehart and Tiffany Cross, both African-American journalists, were given new weekend news programs at the network.
Jones, who joined MSNBC as an executive producer in 2013, after working for a local television station in South Carolina, raised her profile this election season, producing two town-hall events with Donald Trump and Joe Biden and helping to oversee the second presidential debate, hosted by NBC correspondent Kristen Welker, which garnered glowing reviews.
“Rashida knows and understands MSNBC, in part because it’s where she started when she first joined NBCU seven years ago,” Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, said in a memo to staff on Monday. “She knows that it is the people who work here that make it great, and she understands its culture. She also appreciates the impact and potential of the brand.”
In recent months, said Conde, Jones “has masterfully guided our coverage of the global pandemic, the social justice protests and unrest, Decision 2020, and the two most-viewed Democratic presidential debates in television history. She helped lead the preparation for Kristen Welker’s role as general election debate moderator. And she has steered many of our groundbreaking editorial series.”
As Variety noted following the announcement, Jones “will join a growing group of senior female executives in the TV-news business, including Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and CBS News President Susan Zirinsky.”