Phil Griffin is stepping down as the longtime president of MSNBC, to be replaced early next year by rising NBC News executive Rashida Jones.
Griffin, 64, has worked at NBC News for 35 years and has been president of MSNBC since 2008. With a primetime lineup led by Rachel Maddow, it has become established as the favorite of those wanting news from a liberal perspective.
Jones, who has been with NBC News for the past seven years, is currently chief of breaking news and major events at the network. She just led the network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election and the team preparing Kristen Welker as moderator of the third presidential debate.
She’s the first Black executive to lead one of the major cable networks. Cesar Conde, the new chairman of the NBC Universal News Group, has made diversity one of his top priorities.
“She leads with a laser-like focus and grace under pressure,” Conde said.
Jones takes over on Feb. 1. Her immediate challenge will be leading the network into coverage of the Biden administration; many in the news industry have feared that the exit of President Donald Trump means the time of high ratings for news networks may be coming to an end.
Griffin is leaving the network, and it’s not immediately clear what he’ll be doing next.
“Phil has built something remarkable,” Conde said in a memo to NBC News staff. “He leaves the network in the best shape it has ever been. Six straight record years. Each one better than the last.”
Jones also oversees MSNBC’s daytime and weekend programming. She will become the most prominent Black woman in the cable news industry.
“Rashida knows and understands MSNBC, in part because it’s where she started when she first joined NBCU seven years ago,” Conde wrote in an email to NBC News employees. “She knows that it is the people who work here that make it great, and she understands its culture. She also appreciates the impact and potential of the brand.”
Jones’ promotion, the first major executive appointment by Conde, comes after he announced a goal this year for the staff of NBC News to be made up of 50 percent women and 50 percent people of color. He didn’t put a deadline on the initiative.