Longtime MTV News host and Rolling Stone writer Kurt Loder, as well as former correspondents Tabitha Soren and John Norris, join the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast this week to discuss the end of an era as the show’s almost four-decade run comes to a close.
Along with the announcement that parent company Paramount would be making a 25% cut to its workforce, it has been revealed that MTV News, after 36 years on the air providing entertainment updates for millions of viewers, will be closing shop. Last week, the head of Paramount, MTV, and Showtime, Chris McCarthy, revealed in a memo that the network chose to make the "tough yet important strategic realignment of our group" after feeling "pressure from broader economic headwinds like many of our peers," and as a result, "made the very hard but necessary decision to reduce our domestic team."
For his part, Kurt Loder, who kicked off the news format on the still budding network in 1987 as The Week In Rock, was surprised by fans’ outpouring of praise when the recent news was released. "I think a lot of those people are just remembering their own youth," he believes. To him, they’re saying "'Wow, that was a great time because, well, I was 15 years old.'"
Of course, as he remembers the decades covered, not all of his broadcasts were happy ones. In the same breath, Loder can recall watching Seattle Grunge icons Nirvana destroy his hotel room after giving him an interview in the early nineties, and just a year later interrupting programming to report on singer Kurt Cobain’s tragic passing. Loder, now 78, also explains his departure from the program, and subsequent disappearance from most MTV functions, saying simply, “I don’t like seeing old people on television.”
"Nothing is forever, and if you're gonna do something, you have to realize that some day you won't be doing it," he adds. "You don't want to do the same thing forever, that would be boring. The reason you love something would evaporate if you keep doing it beyond the natural lifespan of it."
Former correspondent John Norris also had his own issues with the state of music during his tenure, explaining what he perceived as prevalent homophobia among supposedly enlightened Alternative Rock icons, but tried to hang on as long as he could. "I talked to a lot of 'bros' in my time there," John says. "In Hip Hop, and in Pop Punk and whatnot, you get certain vibes from some people and you get certain vibes from other people; I just rolled with the punches. I'm not an easy-to-anger, militant-minded type really. I had a fairly thick skin when it came to some of that stuff... I think that sometimes when we remember the nineties, we forget other things about the nineties which still had some ways to go on some fronts."
Norris who left MTV in 2008, of course, also looks back fondly at his friendship with late Wham! singer and solo artist George Michael, who gave his first interview to Norris following the revelation in the late-nineties that he was a gay man. “It was like he was like another person,” Norris says, “like this massive weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and it was so beautiful to see.”
Also in the discussion, former reporter for ABC, NBC, and MTV News, the face of the network's Choose Or Lose voting campaign, and now professional photographer, Tabitha Soren, looks back on her tenure with the program. Tabitha speaks about her mid-nineties chats with rapper Tupac Shakur who she remembers as being “incredibly warm” and “happy to do the interview,” at the time, although she and the rest of the MTV crew were frisked for hidden weapons by then Death Row Records employees. "I just really felt like he had a great sense about some of the world’s biggest problems,” Soren admits.
Tabitha remembers Tupac saying something along the lines of, "How much money does someone need, really?" The difference between the haves and have-nots, she says, was an experience that he had seen both sides of and had an earnest interest in "leveling out the playing field" -- an idea she says she previously had not heard in his music. "I was surprised at Tupac's range," Tabitha admits. "He could tell me about his first job at the pizza parlor and be coy, and funny, and be batting his eyes, but then he could also start talking about economic inequity. Not every musician, as you well know, has that kind of range."
Listen to the full Rolling Stone Music Now 'MTV News Confidential' episode featuring Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren, and John Norris -- now playing on Audacy -- and follow along for more conversations with the writers and editors of Rolling Stone, bringing listeners inside the biggest stories in music.
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