MTV News, which chronicled the music and politics of the ’90s, shuts down

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Kurt Lauder talks to Britney Spears and Mick Jagger at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards at Lincoln Center in New York City. (Photo: Kemjur/WireImage)

Perhaps it's fitting that MTV News, a young brand if there ever was one, has never gone big than 4-0.

On Tuesday, Paramount Global pulled the plug on MTV News, which was a cable television staple from the late to early 1980s, and famously — especially to Gen-Xers and older millennials — “of To chronicle the narcissistic music culture. 90s.

The influential and crowd-pleasing telecast brought pop music culture, news and politics to young audiences, long before the Internet and Napster changed the media and music industries in fundamental ways.

MTV News was 36.

According to an internal note to employees from Chris McCarthy, president of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks, MTV and Showtime cut their in-house staff by about 25% to the news division as part of a larger round of layoffs. was closed.

McCarthy said the move was part of the company's consolidation of its Showtime operations and MTV Entertainment Studios. The company is breaking down the nine network teams into a single group.

“This is a difficult but important strategic reorganization of our group,” McCarthy wrote. “By eliminating some units and streamlining others, we will be able to reduce costs and create a more efficient approach to our as we move forward.”

MTV News was launched in 1987 as a stand- program “The Week in Rock” with correspondent Kurt Loder. Then-Viacom executives immediately saw MTV's potential to deliver topical news to its core audience of music videos, movies, and topical news in a non-stuffy format they loved at the mall. MTV once stood for Music Television, after all.

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MTV news anchor Kurt Lauder poses for a portrait at MTV Studios on April 17, 1997 in New York City.  (Photo: Karjen Levin/Getty Images)

MTV news anchor Kurt Lauder poses for a portrait at MTV Studios on April 17, 1997 in New York City. (Photo: Karjen Levin/Getty Images)

Within a few years, Lauder had achieved celebrity status amid MTV's meteoric rise in American pop culture, along with correspondents Tabitha Soren, Gideon Yago, and others. In 1992, all three presidential candidates – incumbent Republican George HW Bush, Democrat Bill Clinton and independent businessman Ross Perot – appeared in interviews on MTV News as part of their campaign swings.

In 1993, MTV aired a special report, “Hate Rock”, anchored by Lauder, which a Los Angeles Times reviewer called “Sober assessment of the joint forces to form a league of race-baiting, post-punk skinheads in Germany and elsewhere. The following year, MTV News presented viewers with a Special Report on “Gangsta Rap”.

During a 1994 MTV town hall address by then-President Clinton on the rise in violence, an audience member famously asked the president: “Is that boxers or briefs?”

The moment became a national sensation, decades before the notion of “going ” was part of the vernacular. That question, and Clinton's response (“typically brief”), shifted the boundaries of what was seen as acceptable political discourse.

That same year, Lauder took over MTV's regular programming. Special report to announce Nirvana's Kurt Cobain had committed suicide.

Lauder was sitting at a desk at MTV Studios in New York holding a piece of paper. In a quick cadence, he announced that it was a “very sad day” and that “the leader of one of rock's most talented and promising bands, Nirvana, is dead.” They noted that Cobain's body had been found in a Seattle home, and that he apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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Some compared the scene three decades earlier to when Walter Cronkite appeared on CBS programming to announce that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.

President Barack Obama has appeared several times over the years. In 2012, MTV News hosted a 30-minute sit-down interview with him. “Ask Obama Live: An Interview with the President.”

But, over the past few years, amid corporate restructuring and the advent of flamboyant Vice News and BuzzFeed, MTV News' dominance began to fade. MTV Architect Van Toffler Left the company in 2015.

Unlike their parents, digital natives didn't need to turn on the TV to get the news. Social media filled that gap. YouTube swelled in prominence.

In 2017, McCarthy high-profile reboot MTV's to bring it back into relevance. It followed a rejuvenation plan a year earlier by hiring several journalists. But despite the effort, MTV News continued to contract over the years, making it less relevant to consumers.

Even the one-time disruptions that cut into MTV's relevance have come on hard times lately. BuzzFeed News shut down earlier this month And Vice filed for bankruptcy amid a tough advertising market for online news sites.

The company's decision to lay off MTV staff and shut down the news unit comes amid severe financial pressure on MTV's parent company, which last week reported a net loss of $1.1 billion in the first quarter of this year.

Paramount is now focused on building out its video streaming outlets, Pluto TV and Paramount+.

Staff Writer Stephen Battaglio contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times,

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