Meet the Media: Q&A With Jesse Rodriguez, MSNBC
Our next installment of Meet the Media features Jesse Rodriguez, producer at MSNBC in New York. Rodriguez covers hot topics and books guests for Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan, airing weekdays at 9 a.m. In our interview, Rodriguez tackles working with PR pros, social media, and the role of cable news:
Xstatic: What was your first job in media?
Jesse Rodriguez: I started as a local writer for the Fox affiliate in Miami. After interning in Washington for CNBC, I was promoted to assignment editor at the station.
X: What do you consider to be your big break into cable news?
JR: I was the first reporter in America to break the news of the transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his younger brother in 2006. This was a very important milestone in my career, and was a huge story of international interest.
X: Were you nervous to break such a major story?
JR: I was excited, but not nervous. I was well-prepared to cover major breaking news, after covering some pretty devastating hurricane seasons.
X: What was that like, covering major hurricanes in the eye of the storm?
JR: It was hard – grueling days and long nights. And even though your own property is being destroyed, you still need to put the audience ahead of your own priorities.
X: With all media in trouble, what do you see for the future of broadcast news?
JR: Cable news is especially well-positioned, and is actually seeing increased viewership. It provides something you can’t get anywhere else, real-time coverage of breaking news.
X: The departure of Lou Dobbs from CNN is the most recent example of the political polarization of cable news networks. What is your take on that?
JR: Middle of the road is not what people are looking for in prime time. We, like any business, have to adapt to what our customers want. Fox News and MSNBC cover breaking news during the day, and feature strong personalities with an edge at night. It’s similar to a newspaper featuring both hard news and the editorial page.
X: But ethically, isn’t it just as important for cable news to remain fair and balanced?
JR: Networks don’t just wake up and say – hey, we’re going to slant liberal today. The flow of cable news is very important, and it makes perfect sense to trend in a particular direction to attract an audience when you have such strong personalities debating the issues. It doesn’t make sense to follow up a more conservative leaning host with a liberal one, and vice versa. You’d lose your entire audience and have to fill the gap in a matter of minutes.
X: Do you enjoy working with PR pros?
JR: Absolutely, but PR people need to pitch the right story to the right person. Someone who had obviously never seen our show once pitched a holiday cooking segment for Morning Meeting. The best story ideas are visual, make waves and are timely.
X: How much do you rely on social media to find stories?
JR: I live on the Internet and social media like Twitter. Social media is huge because it shows what people are really talking about and we pay attention to what is trending.
X: What is the last book you read that really made you think?
JR: All of them — any of them. Just kidding. Seriously, I really enjoyed Madeline Albright’s Memo to the President Elect.