NBC News reached in front of the camera Monday to pick chief legal correspondent and anchor Dan Abrams as the new chief of MSNBC, replacing recently departed MSNBC president Rick Kaplan.
The move will take Abrams away from his 4-year-old legal-themed Abrams Report to take command of NBC's sister cable news channel along with NBC News senior vice president Phil Griffin.
Abrams will be the day-to-day manager of MSNBC from its Secaucus, New Jersey, headquarters and report to Griffin, who retains his post as supervising executive in charge of NBC's top-rated morning show, Today, a role he has fulfilled to much success in the year since he has had the job.
Both Abrams and Griffin will report to NBC News president Steve Capus, who noted in an interview that he, Griffin, and Abrams all came out of MSNBC.
"We know the organization, we know its strengths, and each of us are committed to it reaching new heights," Capus said, adding that NBC News executives wanted someone familiar with MSNBC who would not advocate starting from scratch.
The management change comes as the NBC Universal-owned cable network has made some ratings headway yet remains far behind rivals CNN and the Fox News Channel.
"Look at the landscape of the media world these days. These are unconventional times, and unconventional times call for unconventional choices," Capus said. "We have chosen to go with somebody who knows MSNBC inside and out, who knows NBC News extremely well and who we think can help manage and grow the channel."
Abrams said in an interview Monday that he hadn't settled into the job yet and wouldn't discuss specific details as to what he will do as MSNBC's general manager.
"It's going to be building on the successes we've had so far, then adding a bit of excitement, making it a bit more vibrant," Abrams said.
Griffin identified two MSNBC successes--Hardball and Countdown--and said that they embody the aggressive producing and quality shows for which the channel is striving. He said the channel's "sweet spot" of politics will be even sweeter in this year's midterm elections as well as 2008.
"We have the momentum, we've gained momentum," Griffin said. "We're going to build on it."
The changes at MSNBC were being addressed in a town hall-style meeting with employees at the channel's headquarters at noontime Monday.
Abrams is a graduate of Duke University and Columbia law school who joined MSNBC in 1997 as a correspondent. He has covered the legal fight over the 2000 election, the trials of Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, and the impeachment of President Clinton.
Griffin's posts have included vp prime-time programming at MSNBC and executive producer of Hardball With Chris Matthews.