MSNBC Chairman Andy Lack defended his decision to overhaul the network into a hard news destination during the day, concluding it would get clobbered if it didn’t change course.
“Had we not made this turn to breaking news with seriousness of purpose, in these times and in this election, we would have been clobbered,” he told The Daily Beast.
Lack acknowledged that MSNBC’s previous identity as all liberal, all the time was good for the time period it existed, but it wasn’t an effective brand for the long term.
“As reasonable as that [discarded liberal] programming was for when it was created, we’re in a long game now … This is may be the most interesting election of my lifetime … The world has never been more dangerous in my lifetime.”
Lack also defended his much-maligned primetime host Chris Hayes, whose impending cancelation at 8 p.m. has been forecasted by analysts for a year now.
“I don’t feel pressure,” Lack said about Hayes’ less-than-stellar ratings in the all-important time slot. “Chris [Hayes] is a good guy and he’s doing a good show.”
Lack praised Brian Williams‘ performance as a breaking news anchor during the day, but made clear he’s not currently being considered for his own show on the network.
“We’re just not looking at it,” he said. “There always could be, would be, because he’s Brian, but that’s not where the focus is. The focus, particularly for this news cycle, which feels so intense when you go from Paris to San Bernardino before you can blink” is to keep Williams in his current role.
And Lack defended MSNBC’s borderline obsessive Donald Trump coverage, which has included taking his rallies across the country in full and airing countless hours of programming covering the Donald.
“I think it’s a helluva story — and I like big stories,” Lack said, rejecting the notion that his and other news outlets are simply providing the reality TV mogul-turned-politician a free forum to reach and attract supporters.
“Donald Trump is leading our news coverage, and everybody else’s, because Donald Trump has cut a path through the Republican party that is profound right now … The coverage we’re giving to Trump is arguably 24-7 because he’s got 40 percent in the polls.”
Conspicuously absent from the interview — any question or answer on a potential Keith Olbermann return to the network, which is a potential story to watch in 2016.