Last night when network execs, on-air personalities and hungry young producers stepped out of the elevator to the party celebrating MSNBC’s new slogan “Lean Forward” on the 49th floor of 7 World Trade Center, they were immediately blinded by yellow spotlights.
The entire space was encased on all sides by floor-to-ceiling windows offering an uptown-facing view of Manhattan. The new slogan was everywhere, on various screens around the room, on little drinks-special-like stands on the cocktail tables, and projected on the adjacent buildings, usually accompanied by further elaborations like “The Future Only Goes in One Direction.” The tagline had even been plastered on the mirror in the men’s room.
“Good thing they put it there and not over the urinals,” the columnist Howard Fineman told The Observer, pausing from a conversation with Jeff Zucker, away from the dance floor. “Otherwise people would have been bonking their heads against the wall.”
He was talking about his recent move to The Huffington Post with the outgoing NBC president.
“Who runs things over there, anyway?” Mr. Zucker asked Mr. Fineman.
“Well, Arianna, of course,” Mr Fineman said, prompting a curious one-handed slam-dunk gesture from Mr. Zucker. After Mr. Fineman left, The Observer asked Mr. Zucker about his own plans for the future.
“I’m going to lean forward and relax for a little bit,” he said.
And do those plans for relaxation include watching Conan O’Brien’s new show on TBS?
“I’m sure I’ll,” he said, and then paused as if he actually hadn’t considered the question before. “I don’t know, but I wish Conan well.”
Later in the evening, Joe Scarborough arrived with his co-host Mika Brzezinski, who trailed close behind as he walked the room. We chatted with one of the upstart producers, who bragged about having read all 174 pages of the midterm elections briefing that had been sent, staff-wide, from Chuck Todd’s political unit in Washington.
The green-eyed anchor Contessa Brewer said she was a fan of the network’s new catchphrase. It was, in fact, her anniversary but she and her husband were pleased to support the cause.
“We’re already doing this, let’s call it something,” Ms. Brewer said of the rationale for the slogan. “It’s a big deal. And really it’s great for our confidence. It’s a great internal strategy, too, to rally the team and get us all under the same ‘Rah-rah-rah, let’s go’ banner.”
Chris Matthews passed by, stopping to kiss her hand as she continued to talk.
When we caught up with Mr. Matthews we discussed the latest effort by the competition, CNN’s Parker Spitzer. Mr. Matthews, a former newspaper man, expressed concern for how Ms. Parker, a “brilliant, cunning columnist,” was going to find the time to fit her writing into the rigorous schedule of a television political commentator.
“I’m trying to write a book now but it’s short on words,” he said.”You get up in the morning early, you cheat, you put in an hour or so before anything starts, stay late at night another hour, sort of steal little hours at the beginning and the end of the day. But I don’t know how you do that and write a column, I don’t know.”
The Observer hadn’t heard about the new book. What’s it about?
“You’ll find out,” he said. “I’ve written five of them. You can’t even list my books, can you?”
“Well then you have no value to me,” he said and rattled off the major ones. “Those were very well received, by the way, by those who read books. Those who read books,” he eyed The Observer critically, “read those books.”
Hey! The Observer reads plenty of books!
“No you don’t,” Mr. Matthews shook his head, with a big smile. “No you don’t.”