A Somber 20th Anniversary Celebration for MSNBC

By Chris Ariens Comment

Heralding “the promise of the internet and the power of television” MSNBC went on the air 20 years ago today.

Among the first day’s anchors was Brian Williams. 20 years later, Williams is back on MSNBC leading coverage of last night’s terror attack in Nice, France.

Two days after it launched, on July 17, 1996, the network would find itself covering its first big breaking news story: the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 1.21.21 PM “Williams had to improvise with a road atlas and point to the crash site with his finger because we didn’t have a full time graphics staff at that hour,” writes president Phil Griffin in a note to staff, marking the anniversary. “We embraced innovation but also showed real creativity and scrappiness to get the news on the air.”

“I know the challenge of being a 24/7 network means we call on every bureau around the world, every anchor, every reporter, every graphics assistant, and every crew member — and I want to thank you all for delivering the very best every time,” Griffin adds.

There will be a special tonight at 10 p.m., 20 Stories That Shook The World in 20 Years. The network also put together this highlight reel, narrowing down 20 years, in less than 4 minutes.

Here’s Griffin’s note:

From: Griffin, Phil (NBCUniversal)
Sent: Friday, July 15, 2016
To: @MSNBC Everyone
Subject: 20 Years

At 9 a.m. on July 15, 1996, MSNBC launched with a promise to revolutionize the way people get news and blur the lines between television and the Internet. As we look back on two decades, it’s remarkable to realize how radically the world has changed and yet how steadfast our core purpose and principles have remained.

The blending of TV and digital was evident on day one, when Tom Brokaw interviewed President Bill Clinton at the White House and took questions from e-mailers live on the air. That technological advancement dazzled the leader of the free world — he couldn’t believe it was happening in real time.

On day three, we were the first network to report the tragic news that TWA Flight 800 had crashed off the coast of Long Island, but technology didn’t carry that day. Brian Williams had to improvise with a road atlas and point to the crash site with his finger because we didn’t have a full time graphics staff at that hour. We embraced innovation but also showed real creativity and scrappiness to get the news on the air.

Twenty years later, that hasn’t changed. We now use technology in ways we could have never imagined. We instantly gather information through social media and use our phones to broadcast live video from anywhere in the world. We have been part of the most dynamic, rapidly-changing period in human history.

We are covering an extraordinary presidential election which happens to include a different Clinton on the cusp of being nominated by her party. But, sadly, we find ourselves covering devastating events both at home and abroad – including what happened in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas last week, and the horrific news still unfolding out of France.

From day one, our backbone has always been NBC News. The power of our combined forces distinguishes us and gives us a competitive advantage in both newsgathering and influence.

And from day one, we have relied on the Washington bureau as a nonstop engine of reporting, analysis, and newsmaker interviews that drive our coverage. Tim Russert was the first to call MSNBC “The Place for Politics” in 2006 — and the name has stuck ever since thanks to the tireless work of the DC teams. I know the challenge of being a 24/7 network means we call on every bureau around the world, every anchor, every reporter, every graphics assistant, and every crew member — and I want to thank you all for delivering the very best every time.

Twenty years is nearly a generation, and many of us have grown up together at MSNBC. Technology has changed, the media landscape has changed, and our network has changed. We moved from Fort Lee to Secaucus to 30 Rock, celebrated marriages and children, mourned deaths and losses, and have seen friends come and go (and come back). Above all, we have created a real family.

As a family, we will move from today to tomorrow to next week’s political conventions and on through whatever the next twenty years may hold.

Thank you all for the work you do every day to make MSNBC the place we’re proud to call home.

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