By BRIAN STELTER
Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC for the past twelve years, will step down shortly after President-elect Biden’s inauguration in January.
Rashida Jones, a senior vice president with a wide portfolio at NBC News and MSNBC, will become president of the network on Feb. 1.
The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of her appointment, said that Jones will be the first Black person to run a major cable news network.
The transition was announced by NBCUniversal News Group chair Cesar Conde on Monday afternoon.
“She has an outstanding track-record, and she leads with a laser-like focus and grace under pressure. I know she will be an excellent leader for MSNBC,” Conde wrote in an internal memo.
Conde said that Griffin came to him shortly after the presidential election and spoke about “his desire to depart at a time of his choosing and when he felt confident about the strength of the network he loves.”
Transitions in Washington, D.C. often lead to turnover in the news business as well.
Griffin, 64, “has many interests and passions outside news – and he is energized right now by the prospect of being able to participate in them professionally,” Conde said in his memo.
November was MSNBC’s most-watched month in its 24-year history. But the channel finds itself in a challenging competitive landscape at the end of President Trump’s time in office. In November the channel still ranked third in cable news behind CNN and Fox News, since cable news viewership was up across the board during the election period.
MSNBC’s biggest strengths are political talk shows like The Rachel Maddow Show and The Beat with Ari Melber, which have big and loyal audiences.
Conde’s memo credited Griffin with “six straight record years” in the ratings, “each one better than the last,” which is in part a testament to intense interest in Trump’s campaign and presidency.
The beginning of the Biden presidency may scramble the cable news wars in ways that remain to be seen.
Jones has been at MSNBC and NBC News since 2013. She previously worked at The Weather Channel and at local stations. She rose through the ranks at NBC and became the senior vice president for specials in 2017.
Jones’ portfolio was expanded earlier this year when she was put in charge of MSNBC’s daytime and weekend news schedule.
“In the last year alone that has meant, of course, that she 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,” Conde wrote on Monday.