MSNBC’s Phil Griffin: ‘We’re not the place for [breaking news]’

By Alex Weprin 

MSNBC president Phil Griffin spoke to the New York TimesBill Carter about the channel’s low ratings for the past couple of months. The message he is sending: we are staying the course.

At a time of intensely high interest in news, MSNBC’s ratings declined from the same period a year ago by about 20 percent. The explanation, in the network’s own analysis, comes down to this: breaking news is not really what MSNBC does.

“We’re not the place for that,” said Phil Griffin, the channel’s president, in reference to covering breaking events as CNN does. “Our brand is not that.”

Griffin also weighed in on CNN, which has seen a ratings surge thanks to the non-stop news cycle, and original programming like “Parts Unknown.”

Mr. Griffin acknowledged that CNN, which has experienced ratings gains near 100 percent in the last two months, shines in periods of intense news interest. But, he said, this will pass.

“You do have to look at the long term,” Mr. Griffin said in May. “In the first quarter of this year, Fox News had its lowest quarter in a decade. A year ago CNN had its worst month ever. I tip my hat to what CNN has done this month, but let’s not be so myopic as to think the whole world has changed.”