MSNBC is losing its most skilled dayside news anchor and interviewer and NBC is gaining one heck of a correspondent. That should be the end of this story but I suppose I could go on…
For the past nine and a half years, every weekday when the news was on MSNBC, so, in one way or another, was Chris Jansing. During her time there she has just about done it all for the network; reported overseas, covered major stories as they were breaking, interviewed many of the major players in politics, done stories for Dateline, filled in on primetime, and filled in on NBC. She has had a significant role in covering just about every major story since she joined MSNBC in 1998.
The 2000 recount? Jansing spent 36 days in Florida. 9/11? Jansing was on the air as it happened. The Iraq War? Jansing was part of a team (consisting primarily of John Siegenthaler, Forrest Sawyer, Lester Holt, and herself) that worked on-air shifts of eight hours or more around the clock for fourteen days straight.
In 2004, Jansing spent nine months repeatedly traveling back and forth across America reporting and anchoring on the Presidential campaign from the primaries to the conventions to the debates and on through to the inauguration. It would end up being a brutal schedule. During one particularly hectic three day period she was reporting from Philadelphia, then the next day back in Secaucus anchoring MSNBC Live, then the next day back out on the road in Ohio. This isn’t the sort of thing you normally see news anchors do; devote nearly a year of their time to one subject. That was her choice. She wanted the assignment.
She was in Rome before Pope John Paul II fell ill and passed away. She stayed in Rome for five weeks covering the Conclave and the Election of Pope Benedict XVI for MSNBC and NBC. When Benedict XVI’s inaugural mass occurred, Jansing was the lone anchor for NBC and MSNBC’s coverage. It was the first time someone on MSNBC’s payroll anchored NBC News’ special coverage of a major news event.
When the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry, Jansing was called in to anchor coverage and she was present at Cape Kennedy to cover the launch of shuttle Discovery when flights resumed.
In 2006, Jansing was part of MSNBC’s Winter Olympic coverage in Torino, Italy.
In other words, Chris Jansing has been a key part of MSNBC’s news coverage for most of its existence. She was the complete package; totally versatile. You could put her in just about any situation and she would meet the challenge. She had the poise, the on-air professionalism, and the gravitas to pull it off. It came across over the air. You could see it in how she approached a given story - the way she prepared - eschewing scripted questions in favor of hard research which she herself would pour over. And this was reflected in how her interviews unfolded with the little nuances and asides she would add; details that would frequently be glossed over or not even touched upon by others. Watching her interviews, you would get the sense of a pro at work.
All of which makes the news of her departure to the west coast a plus for NBC but a big minus for MSNBC. ICN has talked with current and former MSNBC staffers over the years and if Jansing’s name came up the comments would be pretty much the same; she was the best thing MSNBC had going for it on dayside. These comments have been echoed by the viewers I’ve run across on the internet who watch MSNBC for news.
MSNBC losing the ability to have her on full time will prove to be costly, maybe not financially, but certainly from a credibility standpoint. Nothing against MSNBC’s anchor roster which is “good enough” for most basic news stories, but you could stack up the resumes for everyone currently working on MSNBC dayside and added together they still wouldn’t match hers. There is no substitute for experience and gravitas and she had both in spades. And, among people who take MSNBC dayside seriously, her professionalism and abilities will be sorely missed on MSNBC.
You could probably count on two hands, with fingers to spare, the number of people at NBC News who are versatile enough and have the experience necessary that you could literally use them in any scenario without having any flaws creep out. Some people make competent news readers. Many more make competent reporters. Some are good show hosts. Some make good interviewers. But few can do it all and do it well. This is why you see a lot of talent in this business working in some areas and not others but very few who can jump around to any given area seamlessly. And it’s this agility that makes Jansing a natural fit for a correspondent’s role.
As one who has been following MSNBC since it launched, this really is the end of an era there. Jansing was the last of the full time M-Fr anchors left from the MSNBC early years. But I can’t argue with what she will bring to the table as a correspondent for NBC, even though it will prove to be a net loss for MSNBC.