MSNBC President Rashida Jones Honored at the Night of Opportunity Gala

By Ethan Alter 

MSNBC President Rashida Jones wrote a new page in TV news history in 2020 when she became the first Black woman to head up a major news network. And she’s doing her part to ensure that fresh chapters will be written in the years to come by mentoring and increasing opportunities for a new and increasingly diverse generations of journalists.

Jones’s commitment to that cause was recognized on Wednesday night when she was one of three honorees to take the stage at the 2024 Night of Opportunity Gala. Hosted by The Opportunity Network, the ceremony spotlights executives and other leading industry figures who make inclusion and mentorship a key part of their portfolio.

“Mentorship has been a critical part of my own professional and personal growth,” Jones tells TVNewser the morning after the event. “I believe in the importance of both finding and being a mentor.”


“Last night’s gala was full of those taking the time to invest in the next generation and expand access in their fields,” Jones adds. “When I met with the fellows and alumni of The Opportunity Network I was left feeling truly inspired and encouraged about what this group of young people will no doubt accomplish as they become young adults and early professionals.”

MSNBC President Rashida Jones speaks at the Night of Opportunity Gala (Courtesy Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Opportunity Network)

Jones joined fellow honorees Anu Aiyengar, global head of mergers and acquisitions at J.P. Morgan, and actor and director Jamie Hector in celebrating the achievements of the evening’s four Opportunity Awards recipients and looked forward to the careers in store for them.

Prior to the gala, Jones had the opportunity to visit with some of the high school and college-aged participants in the six-year Opportunity Network Fellowship program. “I do not have the words to express how each one of them inspired me,” she remarked at the gala. “On top of being ambitious leaders in their schools, communities and workplaces, they are each anchored with a sense of purpose.”

“I accept this award with gratitude, but I dedicate it to each of you,” she continued. “And I congratulate each of you for the work you are doing every day to make this world a better place.”

Several of Jones’s MSNBC colleagues attended the gala, including weekend host Jonathan Capehart, 11th Hour anchor Stephanie Ruhle and political commentator Ayman Mohyeldin. But perhaps the most important person in the room for Jones was her own mentor—Yvette Miley, the executive vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for NBC News’ Groups.

Jones, Jonathan Capehart and guests at the Night of Opportunity Gala. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Opportunity Network)

“I remember Yvette saying to me, ‘Stop saying why you can’t and think about why not,'” Jones told the audience about how Miley influenced the trajectory of her own career. “I erased the self-imposed restrictions of what was possible. I encourage you all tonight to find your own Yvette and then be an Yvette to someone else. You might change their life.”

Jones’s honor takes on extra resonance coming mere days after Kim Godwin‘s exit from ABC News. When she was named ABC News president in 2021—a few months after Jones took charge of MSNBC—Godwin became the first Black woman to lead a major network news division. Prior to her announcement that she would be stepping down, the National Association of Black Journalists released a statement fully supporting Godwin.

In a 2021 interview with The Daily Beast, Jones reflected on her own experiences as a Black woman rising through the news industry ranks. “I’m still routinely either the youngest or the only person who looks like me in a room and at this level,” she said. “With the track record that I have, there’s a lot less convincing industry-wide about what I can do and what I’m capable of, but—in real life, in work life—people make assumptions and I just let it roll off my back.”