30 Most Impactful TV Newsers of the Past 15 Years: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski

By A.J. Katz Comment

To mark the 15th anniversary of TVNewser this month, Adweek honored the 30 Most Impactful TV Newsers of the Past 15 Years, spotlighting the personalities and execs who were instrumental in the industry’s incredible decade-and-a-half evolution. TVNewser will be presenting expanded versions of each honoree’s interview.

Joe Scarborough:

  • Job now: Co-host, Morning Joe, MSNBC
  • Job 15 years ago: Host, Scarborough Country, MSNBC

Adweek: What were you doing 15 years ago (in January 2004)?

Scarborough: I was 6 months into my career on TV covering the early presidential contest in Iowa. Scarborough Country was only a few months old and I seemed to be operating on an hour-by-hour contract with MSNBC. No one, including myself, expected my tenure at MSNBC to last a year. Fifteen years later, I’m still hanging on.

What’s your favorite professional moment of the past 15 years, and why?

Spending every day on air with Mika, Willie, Mike and our extended Morning Joe family. I love working with all of them and you can probably see that on the air every day. Everybody really likes each other.

What is the biggest way that TV news has changed over the past 15 years?

Despite the challenges this president has brought to news reporting, Americans are more engaged than ever and the topics we cover are far more serious than they were in 2004. Mika was initially criticized by some NBC News executives when she refused to read a Paris Hilton story as the morning’s lead news item. We were constantly trying to expand the news hole. We mocked news-you-can-use segment and instead went for more hard news. Today, it seems, most newscasts are doing the same because of the challenging times we find ourselves in.

Who have you learned the most from in your career? What did they teach you?

Mika taught me to sit down, calm down, slow down and take control of the set. Her insights from the first day were incredible and she told all of us on the first day that Morning Joe was going to be around for a long time. Fifteen years later, I still don’t know what she saw that first day but she was correct as usual.

Which of your competitors do you most admire, and why?

We don’t have competitors. I believe we are all working together to get the truth out to Americans about what their leaders are doing and how that shapes our Republic—and that includes Fox and Friends pressing the administration on Syria and other issues.

What do you know now about the business that you didn’t know 15 years ago?

That I should have followed much earlier Chris Matthews’ advice to me upon entering the business: “Be yourself.” I’m still working on Aaron Burr’s charge to “speak less, smile more.”

What has been your toughest professional challenge during the past 15 years, and how did you overcome it?

Dragging myself out of bed at 4 a.m. continues to be a great challenge but by 4:05 every morning, I’m thanking God for having a job to get out of bed for. I’m very lucky and very blessed.

 

Mika Brzezinski:

  • Job now: Co-host, Morning Joe, MSNBC
  • Job 15 years ago: Correspondent/anchor, CBS News

Adweek: What were you doing 15 years ago (in January 2004)?

Brzezinski: I was running after my little girls who were in elementary school and was in the middle of my contract at CBS working my way up towards 60 Minutes… Not knowing that I would be fired two years later…  😳 I loved it there and I loved having little girls!!

What’s your favorite professional moment of the past 15 years, and why?

Bar none, it was in Hartford Connecticut at my very first “Know Your Value” event. The runner-up in the “Grow Your Value” bonus competition was a 28-year-old single mom who wanted to go to college. An audience member was the CMO of a local university. She stood up, grabbed the mic, and gave her a full ride on the spot. That was the moment I knew that Know Your Value was going to change the lives of countless women..  I get chills thinking of it.

What is the biggest way that TV news has changed over the past 15 years?

There’s just many many more options. That has benefits and challenges.

Who have you learned the most from in your career? What did they teach you?

Joe. He taught me to stop preparing before we go on stage. To just go with it and trust that you will be fabulous. Women prepare too much and we spoil the moment.

Which of your competitors do you most admire, and why?

I love Hardball [with Chris Matthews] but that’s not a competitor. I wait all day. ALL DAY, I TELL YOU! – for his opening line! What will it be tonight?

What do you know now about the business that you didn’t know 15 years ago?

That I would still be working at 51… and looking ahead to working into my fifties.  It feels like I am defying gravity — also this business is beginning to appreciate maturity in women.

What has been your toughest professional challenge during the past 15 years, and how did you overcome it?

Knowing my value. I wrote a book about it. So second would be the hours. For my entire career, I have had the worst hours. The challenge has been to get sleep…

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