Melissa Harris Perry

February 18, 2012 by staff 

Melissa Harris Perry, “Phenomenal, honestly,” said Phil Griffin, MSNBC’s president, of Harris-Perry’s work that week for Maddow. “Just jaw-dropping. Her future is as bright as she wants it to be.”

“Melissa Harris-Perry,” two hours of news-talk both weekend mornings hosted by the Tulane University professor, premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18) on MSNBC.

In the weeks and months since her sub-host triumph and Griffin’s rave review, discussions with the network centered around a possible weekday or weeknight show.

“I was pretty resistant,” Harris-Perry said. “There was no way I could imagine a Monday-through-Friday, noon-to-midnight kind of life. I couldn’t imagine moving to New York or any of those things.”

A weekend show “means I get to maintain my life on the weekdays here in New Orleans, and just be in New York on weekends,” she added.

She plans to usually be joined there by her family, husband James Perry and her daughter Parker.

“We have a little apartment – a little, little, little apartment – that we’re renting in New York,” she said. “Everybody will hang out over the course of the weekend, and we’ll all fly back on Sunday evenings.”

The commute seems like a lot, but the new show means Harris-Perry will actually be traveling less for work than she has in the recent past.

“I’m going to substantially reduce my public lectures, which typically have me on the road a lot,” she said “I will be in New Orleans more days out of the week.”

About the work: Harris Perry has clearly relished the opportunity to conceive her own cable-news show.

Her name is above the door, after all. The time slot will allow her and her production team to be “responsive to the weekly news cycle, but it’s not quite the same sort of responsiveness that a daily news cycle is,” she said.

“We will have the opportunity to pause and step back and say what’s important that happened over the course of the week, and what we think is coming up next week,” she continued. “There’s a little bit more breathing room.

“A big part of the vision is to have the additional room to think through what’s important through the course of a week, to build what I would think of as a thesis looking back on the four or five important things and seeing how they fit together, what they tell us about where we are.”

True to the MSNBC model, there will be panel discussions, though some participants will likely be unfamiliar if you don’t hawk library aisles or CSPAN’s Book TV.

“It will be driven by the questions that are of particular intellectual and personal concern to me, so we’ll undoubtedly talk about issues of inequality — racial and gender and class inequality. We’ll undoubtedly talk about Southern politics, and politics beyond the Beltway and the New York Amtrak stops. We will undoubtedly turn to maybe some surprising voices, voices you don’t always hear on cable news.

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