Last night, after getting the scoop of his life with an exclusive interview of the long-mysterious videographer behind the “47-percent” video, MSNBC host Ed Schultz announced that he would be leaving his 8pm primetime slot and moving his populist tough guy brand to Saturdays and Sundays at 5pm. The move is less than glamorous (MSNBC currently airs prison documentaries and low-budget shows like Caught on Camera on weekend evenings) but Schultz explained it as an exciting opportunity for his show to spend more time reporting from the field on American workers.
“I’ve gotta tell ya,” Schultz said to his audience, “sitting behind this desk five nights a week just doesn’t cut it for me. I want to get out with the people.”
The announcement was sudden but unsurprising. As my profile of Schultz in the latest issue of CJR made clear, his fire-breathing persona was beginning to feel increasingly out of place amid an MSNBC lineup dominated by erudite liberals like Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. This brand was already ascendant at MSNBC when Schultz started his show in 2009, but it has since come to define the network. It’s no surprise, then, that the wonky and chart-obsessed Chris Hayes will replace Schultz at 8pm.
Schultz does indeed have a family that he’ll enjoy spending more time with, but the man I got to know over the course of my reporting would never volunteer for a lesser position. More than anyone I’ve ever met, Schultz is defined by his ambition. He aggressively climbed the ladder, from local sportscaster in Fargo, ND, to national radio show host, and, still not satisfied, kept climbing until he arrived on primetime cable. When I spoke with him in January, he saw the 8pm slot as the pinnacle of his career. “I want to have a show that’s the best it can be at eight o’clock,” he said. “After this, what else is there?”
You can find the full profile here.