Erik Sorenson, MSNBC's new general manager, likes the idea of identifiable
breakthrough personalities, such as Charles Grodin, joining the network's lineup.
"We cannot just report news stories all day long, like
CNN [Cable News Network]," Sorenson said last week. "I don't want just
neutral news anchors on-air."
Sorenson, who officially joins MSNBC Aug. 3 after leaving
beleaguered Courtroom Television Network, said he didn't play any role in
MSNBC's decision last week to court Grodin and bring him on board. But he said the
move does fit into his vision of what the network must do to stand out.
Grodin's talk show is migrating to MSNBC after being
dropped by sister service CNBC. Charles Grodinwas scheduled to debut last
Saturday, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. That will be the show's permanent time slot, with
reairings at 1 a.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. Grodin's show had aired on CNBC
for three years before being canceled last month.
Sorenson, Court TV's executive vice president of
programming, is replacing Mark Harrington, who died of cancer last month. MSNBC, a
partnership between NBC and Microsoft Corp., celebrated its second anniversary last week.
MSNBC has weathered some criticism for allegedly turning
"tabloid" by offering extensive coverage of stories like Princess Diana's
death last year and the Monica Lewinsky scandal this year. But Sorenson didn't agree
with the critics.
"It's easy to criticize a 24-hour network for
doing too much on a story," he said. "But we're focused by definition on
the top stories of the day ... And on a lot of the days in 1998, Monica Lewinsky has been
the best story."
Court TV formally announced last week that Sheilagh
D'Arcy McGee will replace Sorenson as its head of programming.
Sorenson was courted for the MSNBC post, which he described
as "a dream job," by NBC News president Andrew Lack.
Meanwhile, Sorenson's colleagues at Court TV are still
worried about the fate of their network. In May, Court TV partners Time Warner Inc. and
Liberty Media Group agreed to buy out NBC's share in the trial network.
But Court TV staffers are still waiting to hear what game
plan Time Warner will devise to manage the network and to retool its programming. For
example, staffers want to know if the network will be moved to Turner Broadcasting System
Inc.'s headquarters in Atlanta.
"We've heard basically nothing," one Court
TV official said.