MSNBC on Monday unveiled two new anchors of as-yet-untitled daytime programs, human rights lawyer Ronan Farrow and political pundit Joy Reid, in the Comcast-owned cable news outlet’s ongoing rivalry with top-rated Fox News and also-ran CNN.
MSNBC President Phil Griffin’s plans—which leaked hours in advance of a scheduled noon announcement—include a reshuffling of the weekday schedule that involves switches for hour-long programs anchored by veteran NBC News Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell and New York-based correspondent Tamron Hall.
“I’m confident the changes and additions to our lineup will strengthen the flow of our programming,” Griffin wrote in a staff memo about the shakeup, which goes into effect Feb. 24, after the conclusion of NBC’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics.
The naming of Farrow—a former State Department official who, at age 26, has an insanely precocious resume (UNICEF youth spokesman at age 13, college graduate at age 15, Yale Law School degree at 21, Rhodes Scholar) as well as A-list celebrity parentage (Mia Farrow and Woody Allen)—was widely expected. He’ll debut at 1 p.m., the time slot currently occupied by Mitchell, and his just-hired executive producer is Kathy O’Hearn, former senior vice president of events and video at The Daily Beast. Reid’s news show, which is still being staffed, came as more of a surprise. It will launch at 2 p.m., where Hall has presided for the past three years.
Reid, a 44-year-old graduate of Harvard and, until now, a contributor to the cable network, is, along with Hall and Rev. Al Sharpton, one of three African-American hosts on MSNBC’s week-day lineup. She will give up her duties as managing editor of the TheGrio.com, MSNBC’s black-oriented web site, to anchor full-time.
“Joy is a really thoughtful journalist and analyst, and she’s found real success on this network,” Griffin told The Daily Beast. “She’s formidable on-air and very smart. She fits our sensibility and our audience really connects with her. She’s a natural.”
“Within 20 minutes, it was ‘Holy Cow!’ I knew. I’d wondered, ‘Is this guy for real? Is he a freak?’”
Griffin has been courting Farrow since last August, when NBC News talent scout Elena Nachmanoff and top CAA television agent Alan Berger arranged a meeting between the two. “Within 20 minutes, it was ‘Holy Cow!’ I knew,” Griffin said. “I’d wondered, is this guy for real? Is he a freak? And he walked in and we had the greatest conversation about where media is going—and that is critical. We’ve got to be at the forefront of it, and if we’re not, we’re going to lose. Things are changing so rapidly all the time. There are thousands of options—not only entertainment options, but in the information space—so you’ve got to be smart and different and clever and original.”
Farrow has recently received media attention for tweeting bitter broadsides at Allen, whom he accused, during the Golden Globes tribute to the celebrated director, of sexually molesting Farrow’s adopted sister Dylan: “Missed the Woody Allen tribute—did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”
“Look, he did some personal tweets and that was his issue,” Griffin said. “And I wasn’t—for now—gonna go there. We’ve talked about it.” In general, Griffin added, “I happen to be a big fan of his tweets.”
In the new lineup, Mitchell moves up to noon, where Now With Alex Wagner had aired until her recent switch to 4 p.m. (filling the vacuum left by the abrupt departure of the loose-lipped Martin Bashir), and Hall takes the 11 a.m. slot previously owned by Thomas Roberts, who just began anchoring the 5:30 a.m. show appropriately titled Way Too Early.
“I’m always looking for new faces,” Griffin said.