*MSNBC, the news-based television cable channel owned by the NBCUniversal News Group division of NBCUniversal has been lauded for its reporting of news, politics and commentary on topics that are tailor-made for political news junkies. Recently, the cable channel has undergone a seismic shift that will showcase more minority programming.
Coinciding with the coming inauguration of Kamala Harris, the first woman of color serving as Vice President of the Unites States, MSNBC named Rashida Jones, also a woman of color and established news executive, to be president of MSNBC.
“I don’t know that any of us have fully comprehended the seismic shift that just occurred in news,” said Tiffany Cross, a producer and host who also has a recently published her book, “Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives & Saving Our Democracy.” Cross continued: “I think it catapults MSNBC light years ahead of the competition. MSNBC has a vision to create the look of America on and off the screen.”
Jones, who currently oversees dayside and weekend programming for MSNBC will have two new shows featuring people of color, premiering in their weekend slots. One of those features Cross as anchor. Premiering, Saturday December 12 from 10am-12pm Eastern, will be “The Cross Connection with Tiffany Cross.” Also premiering, on Sunday, December 13 from 10am-12pm Eastern will be “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart.” Cross and Capehart will join an established group of MSNBC hosts that continue to lead live weekend breaking news coverage and analysis, including Kendis Gibson, Lindsey Reiser, Ali Velshi, Alex Witt, Yasmin Vossoughian, Rev. Al Sharpton, Richard Lui, Alicia Menendez and Joshua Johnson.
The shows, which will be replacing Joy Reid’s “AM Joy” Saturday and Sunday slots, will have MSNBC’s hard-hitting politically-based commentary.
“Jonathan Capehart has been a longtime member of the MSNBC family and his steadfast dedication to great journalism, along with Tiffany Cross’ fresh expert analysis, offer our MSNBC weekend morning audience the best of both worlds from two very different life and worldview experiences,” said current MSNBC President Phil Griffin.
Cross, who is a frequent MSNBC guest host has impressive credentials. She’s a 2020 Resident Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics and served as the D.C. Bureau Chief for BET Networks, according to her website (www.tiffanydcross.com). Additionally, she was an Associate Producer for CNN, has worked on the campaign trail and co-founded, The Beat DC, a widely-read, critically acclaimed platform. And wow, is she thrilled about the prospect of having her own groundbreaking show. Here’s what she told EUR’s Lee Bailey in an exclusive interview:
“I’m very excited to join the landscape at this time,” said Cross. “We have a new administration coming in where Black women have ascended to senior levels of government and also to the most senior levels of news, including Rashida Jones being promoted to President of MSNBC, so it really feels like a unique convergence of our sheer determination through the decades of being recognized. No one really gave us these things, we’ve earned them.”
The process of becoming an anchor on television can often be a slow and arduous process. In most cases, anchor spots don’t happen overnight.
”Outside of the business a lot of people think I just showed up but I’ve actually been working in news for 20 years,” said Cross. “I founded a news platform, raised seven figures, had a staff and had been a producer and executive producer and business owner when I founded a news platform. That’s when bookers started calling. They said ‘hey, we read your newsletter every morning, do you want to come in and talk about it?’” This led to an appearance on Joy Reid’s “AM Joy” broadcast, a show that was the start of her destiny. “She (Joy Reid) immediately said ‘you need to come on all the time.’ She has been such a champion of mine, and a true example of ‘when you kick in the door, you don’t shut it, you hold it open and turn around and wave other people in.’ Joy has certainly been that person for me.”
The news industry, for most that become anchors, has a gradual, hierarchical process.
“To go from the control room to the green room was one thing,” said Tiffany. “And then to go to the green room to the anchor desk is another, and I have to say I have felt the most at home in that anchor chair. I think that comes with 20 years of experience at my back. So, when I’m in that anchor chair, I’m thinking about what’s happening in the control room, I might be correcting the teleprompter in real time, I’m prepared for if the satellite goes out, if we lose audio, nothing will shake me because I remember having those moments of sheer panic in the control room, so I can keep a very steady hand on air because I have an even larger mission. I feel made for this moment on behalf of my people. I’m honored to hold the chair.”
There are many politics-based shows on television. But how will “The Cross Connection with Tiffany Cross” distinguish itself among the other shows in this category?
“This will be very different,” she explained. “People who love Joy (Reid) are getting Joy five nights a week, so by the time they get to Saturday morning, they will have a very different experience in that time slot.” Her show plans on spotlighting issues and concerns of the minority community. “We live in a country right now where a majority of the kids under the age 18 are African American, they’re Latino, they’re Asian Americans and Native Americans. So, our collective demographic is repeatedly overlooked and repeatedly unseen and discarded in a lot of mainstream media outlets and I think that frame of thinking has come to a screeching halt as we have seen a racial reckoning commence that was quite frankly centuries in the making. So, on this platform we will have the conversations that you’re having around your dinner table, that you’re having on your couch that you’re yelling at the TV trying to be a part of the conversation. We will say those parts out loud and on the air.”
Jonathan Capehart, who will take over Joy Reid’s Sunday “AM Joy” timeslot, with “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” was asked how he felt about a show being named after him by Lee Bailey.
“I can’t believe it,” laughed Jonathan Capehart. “It’s one of those things, you know when you’re a little kid and you have these dreams of what you want to be when you grow up and your dreams change over and over and over again. I’ve known basically since I was ten that this is what I wanted to do, and specifically having my own television show (was one of them). And to actually have it happen is something that I spent the last few weeks wrapping my head around. I’m still coming to grips that my dream is now coming true.”
Capehart, as stated on the Washington Post website, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a member of the Washington Post editorial board. He writes about politics and social issues and hosts the “Cape Up” podcast. A MSNBC contributor, he also serves as a substitute anchor. He admits that coming up with the name of his show wasn’t as easy as he’d thought it would be.
“It wasn’t so much an obvious choice because my husband and I and even my Mom got into the act of trying to come up with names,” said Capehart. “In the middle of the night, with my mind racing with all these things, I kept thinking well, what I want to do- I’m playing in this Sunday show space and what I want to do is sort of a different take on Sunday shows.” Suddenly he had a revelation. “Why don’t I just call it The Sunday Show?,” he laughed. “And so, I pitched it and Thank God, no one else had it.”
The importance of being a minority host isn’t lost on Jonathan Capehart. Branding will play an important role in the success of the show.
“What I love about the name, is that it tells you exactly the kind of show you’re going to be watching,” he said. “On Sunday people are watching ‘Meet The Press,’ ‘Face The Nation,’ ‘This Week,’ ‘The Lead,’ and we’re going to be playing in that same space. And so, if I have a show on Sunday and I want to do the kinds of interviews that I grew up watching on Sunday shows, well then why not call it The Sunday Show? Leave out my name from the title- that’s what I love about the first three words. You have a reasonable expectation that you’re going to get newsmaker interviews, smart conversation with smart people about what’s going on in the country.”
Most of the consumers that watch Sunday political shows are political junkies, according to Capehart. He hopes to capitalize on that trend. “What they (consumers) come to us for is context,” said Capehart. “Why is a certain story important and how does it fit into the larger conversation and why should they care? And so that’s what I’m looking forward to doing- going through that with the audience.”
The Sunday Morning political shows now running present steep competition. Capehart will have his work cut out for him competing in that slot. What will distinguish his show, and separate him from the pack?
“The most important thing is my perspective,” said Jonathan. “I’ve been in Washington for 13 years, I was in New York for 16 years before that, I was on the New York Daily News Editorial Board, so I bring my experience, but I also bring me- my identity- an African American, openly gay married man. I have a whole host of lived experiences that I will bring to the chair and that I hope and I think will resonate with the audience.”
The Importance of Minority Anchors and Hosts on Television
Melissa Kearney, the Director of the Hamilton Project at Brookings Institute, which seeks to advance “America’s promise of opportunity, prosperity and growth,” has a research work, “Role Models, Mentors and Media Influences,” also authored by Phillip B. Levine. In their study, they underline the importance of role models, particularly for the minority community. “Role models,” as explained in the study, “can be a powerful force for social learning. They can affect the way people view themselves and the world around them and ultimately affect their decisions about how to conduct their lives. Role models influence the attitudes and behaviors of both children and adults.” The potential impact on the minority community displays that shows such as “The Cross Connection with Tiffany Cross” and “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart” are vitally important for its influences on youth and others.
“I want people to be able to turn on the television and see someone that looks like them, or someone that shares their life experience or someone that even gets them,” Jonathan Capehart said, when asked about role models for people of color in the television arena. “The importance of having someone on television that looks like you can’t be understated. When I was a ten-year old kid and I was watching Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley on The Today Show, that’s what got me hooked on news. I thought, ‘I want to do that.’ But it wasn’t until Bryant Gumbel took over from Tom Brokaw when Brokaw became anchor of NBC Nightly News, that I actually saw a Black person in that job. That was a signal to little Jonathan Capehart- ‘that hey wait a minute- this isn’t just something you think you can do, you can do it, because there’s that Black guy there. It is my hope that young Black kids, young LGBTQ kids can turn on the television and see someone that looks like them, shares their life experiences and know, just by me sitting in that chair that anything is possible.”
“You cannot become what you have not seen,” said Tiffany Cross. “And right now, we’re seeing a Black woman Vice President, we’re seeing a Black woman running a television news network, we’re seeing Black women taking steps to move up to the anchor chair in primetime. How this will make a difference in time and influence the next generation is very humbling. I look to my left and look to my right and see so many other people that look like me, doing the most amazing things. It’s truly an honor to be among them.”
Cross’ show will air on Saturdays from 10 a.m. ET to 12 p.m. on MSNBC
Tiffany’s Instagram: @tiffanydcross / Twitter: @tiffanydcross
Capehart’s show will air on Sundays from 10 a.m. ET to 12 p.m. ET, also on MSNBC
Jonathan’s Instagram: @capehartj