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Alex Weprin

Alex Weprin is a senior editor at Mediabistro. He has written about television for Broadcasting & Cable magazine, Cynopsis: Weekender and other outlets, and is a big New York Mets fan. You can follow him on Twitter at

MSNBC Readies New Website, a ‘Platform for the Lean Forward, progressive community’

MSNBCPageSmallNext Tuesday, MSNBC’s new website will go live in a public beta. Later this month, it will formally take back the URL, which has redirected visitors to since NBC acquired control of the site 15 months ago.

At a press briefing this morning at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters, MSNBC president Phil Griffin and executive editor Richard Wolffe unveiled the new site (which was built from scratch), and explained what their goal was in designing it.

“We are the platform for the Lean Forward, progressive community,” Griffin said. “We hope it benefits television, but it will be in and of itself its own medium.”

The new site will not be a “news” site, per se, but more of a social hub for viewers of MSNBC programming. Social will be a focal point, with tight integration with the major social networks, and deep “profiles” that users can create for themselves. The channel’s full video archive will be searchable, with the last two years available at launch, and more videos from the past slowly rolling out. Users can also watch the live MSNBC TV feed on the site… provided they authenticate that they are a cable or satellite customer. Fox News and CNN have similar products.

The homepage will heavily focus on clean visuals (not unlike the upcoming new, but it will only have 10 news stories or videos in the pageflow. Users can also navigate to pages for shows, or news topics, if they want to delve deeper. 10 stories seems somewhat limiting, but Wolffe addressed that while explaining the design.

“[It] forces us to make some tough choices, but for us it is kind of easier than for other people, because we know who we are, we know who are audience is,” Wolffe said. “We are not trying to cater for everyone, we are not trying to be a portal, this is about the spirit of MSNBC.”
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Phil Griffin: Cable News ‘In a sort of flux’

2011 Summer TCA Tour - Day 7This morning TVNewser attended a briefing to preview the new (more on that later), but while we were there, MSNBC president Phil Griffin decided to weigh in on the state of cable news, and of his own channel.

“There is no question that cable news in general is in a sort of flux,” Griffin said, leaning forward in his chair in the 51st floor boardroom. “Everyone is trying to figure out how to grow their audience, everybody is trying to sort of make changes to this new world, wherever we are in 2014, and figure out the future.

“Fox made their first lineup changes in 12 years, and the first multiple changes in their history, and CNN, you know, is doing a lot of different stuff to see if it works,” Griffin added. “I like where we are because I feel that we have a singular vision and we keep going deeper and deeper into that vision, and focusing on it.”

Griffin used the opportunity to tout the current programming (he called Chris Matthewsmove to 7 PM exclusively a “home run”) but also teased what to expect down the line from the channel.

“The great thing about where [MSNBC is] today is that people want to be here,” Griffin said. “We have Alec Baldwin debuting tonight at 10 o’clock, and I think that is a little different for us but I think it is a great fit, and we should be looking for opportunities to do some different stuff.

“In the months ahead you will see some announcements that will go along these lines, a little different for us, but fits the sensibility,” he added.

Griffin also talked about the channel’s ratings struggles earlier this year, once again citing the influx of breaking news, which boosted CNN and Fox. He also addressed the cable news primetime ratings this week, which saw MSNBC top Fox News in the demo for a number of hours Monday night, before being blown out of the water Tuesday night:

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Ratings: Five Weeks Of ‘Reliable Sources’ And ‘MediaBuzz’

MediaShowsIt has been five Sundays since Fox News Channel’s new media criticism program “MediaBuzz” debuted, anchored by former CNN “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz.

Seeing as the two programs both air at 11 AM on Sundays, we thought we would check in on where they are stacking up ratings-wise.

Two quick notes: “MediaBuzz” has been getting replays on Sunday afternoons, but for this item, we are just looking at the original 11 AM airings. Likewise, “Reliable Sources” has had a rotating panel of guest-hosts since Kurtz left, which may have affected the ratings one way or another depending on the news of the week and who was hosting.

Since Kurtz’s FNC hosting debut September 8, “MediaBuzz” has averaged 803,000 total viewers and 151,000 adults 25-54. “Reliable Sources” has averaged 497,000 total viewers and 137,000 adults 25-54.

“Reliable” may have taken week one in the demo, but “MediaBuzz” has taken every week since. Will a permanent host on “Reliable” change that trend? We may have to wait and see.

PolitiFact To Start Fact-Checking TV Hosts and Guests With PunditFact

pofPolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times project that fact-checks politicians and political spinmeisters, is setting its eyes on the media.

The site will start PunditFact, which will be “dedicated to checking claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers and the hosts and guests of talk shows.”

PunditFact is being supported by the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund, which have contributed $625,000, as well as craigconnects, a non-profit from CraigsList founder Craig Newmark.

PolitiFact explains what the plans are for PunditFact on their site.

“Pundits on TV and radio, as well as bloggers and columnists, are prominent voices in our political discourse, yet sometimes they blur the lines between opinion and fact,” said Neil Brown, editor and vice president of the Times. “Now we will hold them accountable, much as we’ve done with politicians.”

PolitiFact has had its ups and downs when it comes to media coverage, garnering invitations for its editors, as well as the occasional outrage over one of its verdicts.

Here Are CNN’s Top 10 ‘Heroes’ of 2013

HeroesCNN has revealed the top 10 “CNN Heroes” for 2013.

The cable news channel will fete the top 10 and name one of them “Hero of the Year” at its annual “CNN Heroes” gala. Anderson Cooper is hosting the event from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, airing Sunday, December 1.

CNN is letting users vote for who they think should be “Hero of the Year” at Each Hero gets a $50,000 grant, with the Hero of the Year getting a $250,000 grant.

“I’ve long admired the CNN Heroes tribute, but even more, the heroes themselves,” said Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide in a statement. ”We are proud to share the stories of these 10 exceptional individuals, and to continue one of CNN’s most important traditions.”

This year’s awards will be the first under the tenure of Zucker at CNN.

More details on each of the “Heroes,” after the jump.
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The AM Ticker: Al Jazeera, FNC, Twitter

  • Twitter and Comcast have struck a deal to let users change the channel and set their DVRs through the social sharing service. So if Rachel Maddow (or another NBC personality) tweets about their show, a button will appear letting you tune your TV to MSNBC right in the tweet. Lost Remote has the details.

‘Morning Joe’ On NBC?

JoeMika_9.13The NY Post‘s Claire Atkinson reports that the “Morning Joe” team of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are targeting the NBC broadcast network for the next professional stage in their careers.

While no such deal is done, persons close to the show have been telling friends that the team is taking over “Weekend Today” ’s Sunday show, sources said.

The talks are very much fluid and there is no guarantee of any expansion, other sources said…

“They made a big play for ‘Sunday Today’ and ‘Meet The Press,’ but Turness is not inclined to dump [‘MTP’ host] David Gregory,” one source noted.

It is worth noting that when CBS was still trying to figure out its morning show, it made a strong effort to recruit the “Morning Joe” team to the network. Expanding to broadcast clearly interested them, and was almost within reach. As such, a part-time job on NBC isn’t that crazy. Whether Lester Holt, who has anchored on NBC Sunday mornings for 10 years, would give up that program remains to be seen.

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On Day Two, Megyn Kelly Clobbers All of Cable News In The Demo

MegynKellyFileWhat a difference a day makes. On her debut night Monday, Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly placed second in the key adults 25-54 demo to her MSNBC competition Rachel Maddow. On Tuesday, Kelly’s ratings skyrocketed, and her demo numbers were the highest on cable news, even topping the reliable leader in that category, Bill O’Reilly.

Kelly averaged 2.76 million total viewers and 623,000 demo viewers. “The O’Reilly Factor” was still tops in total viewers, though not by the significant margin it usually is, averaging 2.98 million total and 578,000 demo viewers. “Hannity” averaged 2.17 million total viewers and 517,000 demo viewers, while “On the Record” averaged 1.81 million total viewers and 317,000 demo viewers at 7 PM. All won their respective timeslots in both categories.

MSNBC still saw a significant ratings bump as coverage of the government shutdown continued, with “Hardball” at 7 PM and Maddow at 9 PM bringing in over one million total viewers, and delivering higher demo viewers than it has seen for much of this year.

So why the discrepancy between Monday and Tuesday nights? A possible culprit is “Monday Night Football,” easily the most popular program on cable TV, which has broad-ranging appeal. NBC’s “The Voice” also draws a large, broad audience.

Jake Tapper On Media Bias, White House Press Briefings And CNN

Jake-Tapper-CNN-2CNN anchor Jake Tapper participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” discussion today, and it was illuminating.

Tapper weighed in on politics, the differences between CNN and ABC, media bias and much more.

On the daily White House press briefing:

The White House press briefings are quite often useless. The spokespeople are there to not make news. I get a lot more reporting done away from cameras, at least when it comes to the White House. I have never had the desire to jump up to the podium, and I will leave the second part of your sentence dangling there enticingly.

On whether he believes there is media bias:
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Fox News Hires Dr. Ben Carson As a Contributor

bencarson-4Fox News has hired Dr. Ben Carson as a contributor across all of its programs and platforms.

Carson will make his formal debut tonight during “The Kelly File” at 9 PM. He has appeared with some regularity on the channel over the past few months.

Carson is well-known in the medical community, but started making more frequent appearances on cable news after the National Prayer Breakfast in February. During the breakfast (which was nationally televised on C-SPAN, and replayed on cable news for days) he criticized a number of policies supported by President Obama, while standing just a few feet away from the President.

“Dr. Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon who has dedicated his life to healing others,” Fox News CEO Roger Ailes says in a statement. “He also has a broad perspective on what’s going on in the country and his wisdom and provocative viewpoints will make a major contribution to our network.”

Johnny $ noticed that Carson was listed as a contributor back in August, though FNC only acknowledged he had been hired today.

More information below.
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