How MTV Broke News for a Generation

More than a year into his first term, President Bill Clinton has fulfilled his promise to return to MTV if young voters send him to the White House. The 1994 Town Hall-style show was meant to focus on violence in America, but that was a matter of personal taste and helped to grab headlines and put MTV News on the media map. rice field.

Boxer shorts or briefs?

“I usually wear briefs.” Clinton also responded A room full of laughter.

A generation after MTV News bridged news and pop culture, the network’s parent company, Paramount, announced this week that it will be shutting down its news service.

The termination of MTV’s news operations is part of a 25% reduction in Paramount’s workforce, said Chris McCarthy, president and chief executive officer of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks. said in an email to staff shared with The New York Times.

MTV News and its executive anchors and video journalists told young people: Kurt Cobain Suicide The Nirvana affair and the infamous murder of B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. They took viewers on the trajectory of the presidential election, put them face-to-face with world leaders like Yasir Arafat, and took them to college dorms in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They also embraced the chaotic chaos of celebrity in the 1990s and early 2000s, as they did with Courtney Love. interrupted the interview with Madonna. They always put music first.

Through it all, MTV News has never strayed from its core mission of centering youth-centric conversations.

Former MTV News correspondent Soutine Park said, “There was nothing to compare, it was one of one.” “We were elbow-joining kids. There was nothing for the youth.”

Robert Thompson, Professor of Television and Pop Culture at Syracuse University, believes that MTV News is “in terms of young and old, hip and square” television news environments, rather than the conservative versus liberal approach of many cable news networks today. said to have been dismantled. . He said MTV was able to hunt down young viewers who were curious about current affairs as well as being able to name the band’s entire catalog of Flock of Seagulls.

The Music TV network debuted in 1981 as “the fuse that ignited the cable revolution,” Thompson said. Six years later, MTV News airs in the deep and sure voice of Kurt Lauder, former Rolling Stone editor and co-host of the weekly news show The Week in Rock. . But it was the announcement of Cobain’s death in a regular program break in 1994 that cemented Lauder as “the poet laureate of Generation X,” Thompson said.

“I think the live TV was the best part of all that shit,” Lauder, now a film critic for Reason magazine, said in an interview.

Lauder said MTV News tried to differentiate itself from other cable news businesses in a number of ways.

First of all, the anchor and correspondent were not wearing suits. He also said they were trying not to be “smug” and “not to speak ill of the audience.” It became especially important as rap and hip-hop permeated every part of American culture.

“We didn’t jump on rap as a threat to the Republic. We covered that issue pretty evenly,” Lauder said. MTV then began adding hip-hop to its music programming, “suddenly a whole new audience.”

Sway Calloway was brought into the MTV News frame to “elevate the conversation” about hip-hop and pop culture, and to do so with credibility.

“MTV News took the news very seriously,” he said. “We all wanted to maintain integrity in our actions.”

Callaway, who now hosts Sirius XM’s morning radio show, said he saw a new level of respect for hip-hop culture while sitting in the White House’s Blue Room with President Barack Obama. Told.

“When Biggie said, ‘Did you ever think hip-hop would get this far? I had no idea,” Callaway said. “It’s MTV News’ fault.”

From the beginning, MTV News saw an important role for young voters. Tabatha Soren, an MTV News correspondent in the 1990s, saw it firsthand during the campaign for MTV’s “Choose or Lose” vote-out campaign and at the White House.

“People were very serious and genuine in wanting young people to be educated voters instead of just blindly letting everyone go to the ballot box,” she said. “I felt like we were trying to make sure they got the information.”

Soren, who was 23 when she first appeared on MTV News in 1991, said it was easier for her to connect with younger viewers, all the more because she was their age. That meant asking President Arafat about the role of young people in the Intifada, and following the US military into Bosnia, many of whom were the same age as MTV viewers.

“I was the same age as them, so it resonated with me,” said Soren, now a visual artist in the Bay Area. “My natural curiosity was mostly aligned with what the audience wanted to hear.”

That was especially true of Park, who shot a documentary series for MTV News about first-generation Americans like her.

“It was a cultural shift for me personally, but suddenly the audience was suddenly, wait, this version of what it means to be American that has never been shown or talked about before, and it was shown on TV. I was like, ‘Are we going to do this?’ The most realistic way possible? After working for MTV for 10 years, I currently co-host a podcast. “Where else would you have seen it but on MTV?”

Just as Lauder and Soren have become the touchstones of Gen X culture, Park, Calloway and others have done so for millennials. Rushing home after school to watch Total Request Live, video journalists posted the day’s headlines every 10 minutes or so, between afternoon slots on the network and videos of Britney Spears and Green Day. I was watching you report to

“A lot of people were getting news from us. We understood and knew that,” Park said. “For all of us, it was about what the audience is and what we feel is true the way we do it here. , sit with them.”

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