Earlier this month, while the cable news industry was consumed by the ongoing and seemingly never-ending Jeff Zucker–Allison Gollust-Chris Cuomo imbroglio, and as WarnerMedia C.E.O. Jason Kilar was flaccidly trying to calm the nerves of a restless newsroom staff, CNN interim co-president Amy Entelis and CNN+ programming lead Rebecca Kutler were in Washington for a top-secret and mission-critical recruitment assignment. The chaos embroiling their brand had not deterred their efforts to court a new potential on-air talent who, in their eyes, had the potential to become a marquee star both in the CNN lineup and its nascent streaming service.
They weren’t the only ones to hatch this novel idea. Less than one week later, NBC News Chairman Cesar Conde and MSNBC President Rashida Jones made a similar pilgrimage to Washington to meet with the very same talent, in the hopes that she might one day join their networks in a flagship role, and perhaps even take the top spot in primetime on MSNBC. CNN may be reeling from the Zucker mess, but MSNBC is imperiled in its own way, as Rachel Maddow prepares to exit her nightly show, prompting a presumed top-down re-think of primetime.
The potential talent, of course, was Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary. In the last year, Psaki has achieved veritable celebrity status for her daily press briefings, which have restored sanity and professionalism to the office and earned her the adoration of the mainstream media, as well as a fervent following online. Psaki intends to leave the White House at some point this year and, according to sources familiar with her thinking, intends to go into television news—not as a contributor, but as a host. Her lunch meetings with the CNN and MSNBC executives, which also included her agent Jay Sures, were the opening salvo in what is likely to be a long effort by several networks to court the woman who could potentially become the next big star in television news. ABC News and CBS News have also expressed interest in Psaki, sources familiar with the matter told me. (Representatives for CNN and MSNBC declined comment; representatives for ABC News and CBS News did not respond to a request for comment.)