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Rashida Jones Is the Next President of MSNBC News—and First Black Woman to Helm a Cable News Network

By: Maiysha Kai

If you’ve been impressed with the amount of Black talent making it onto MSNBC’s roster as of late, prepare to be amazed. On Monday, NBC Universal announced that the news channel’s current president, Phil Griffin, will be leaving on February 1, 2021, after a 25-year tenure with the company and 12 as its president. Ascending to his place will be Senior Vice President Rashida Jones, who will become the first Black woman to helm a cable news network.

No, not that Rashida Jones, Quincy Jones’ actress-producer daughter of the same name. Jones initially joined MSNBC as an executive producer in 2013; as noted by Vogue, during this election season, she was the producer of two town hall broadcasts with Donald Trump and Joe Biden and helped to lead preparation for the second (and highly successful) presidential debate moderated by NBC correspondent Kristen Welker, the first Black woman to do so solo in decades. Jones was also instrumental in leading coverage of the COVID-19 crisis and several editorial series pertinent to this pivotal moment in history, including Justice for All and Climate in Crisis.

“If you’ve worked with Rashida on any of those endeavors, you know that she has an outstanding track record and she leads with a laser-like focus and grace under pressure,” wrote NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde in a note to staff procured by the Wall Street Journal.

As further explained by Vogue:

Jones, 39 (who shares her name with a famed actress) 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, recently giving more time to the rising star Nicolle Wallace, (while, perhaps not coincidentally, also minimizing the presence of Meet the Press host of Chuck Todd), and adding more anchors from diverse backgrounds to the network’s Saturday and Sunday schedules.

The announcement of Jones’ promotion to the top role comes less than a week after MSNBC announced Tiffany Cross and Jonathan Capehart would each be launching new shows in the weekend slots abandoned by Joy Reid, who premiered her own nightly news show on the network in July, making her the first Black woman since the late Gwen Ifill to host a primetime news show.

As The Root’s Staff Writer Anne Branigin noted at the time, “It could signal the direction Cesar Conde, the new chairman of NBC’s news networks [as of May], wants to take his programming: focusing on younger, more diverse talent, content, and audiences.”

The promotion of Jones to head of the news division seems to cement that promise. In further praise of the 39-year-old producer who will become president of the network on February 1, Conde added:

“Rashida knows and understands MSNBC, in part because it’s where she started when she first joined NBCU seven years ago. 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.”

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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