Doug Herzog: Hall Of Famer

Interviewing Doug Herzog about MTV News is a little like talking with The Pope about the Pieta; it’s just a tiny sliver of his massive scope.

At one point in his four decades of broadcasting innovation, Doug oversaw MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, TVLand, Spike and Logo – in addition to previous stints at Fox and USA.

Doug greenlit Malcolm in the Middle, Family Guy and Futurama, and launched The Real World, Road Rules, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Chapelle’s Show, Key & Peele, South Park – and on, and on, and on.

“You’re talking to the luckiest guy you’ll ever meet,” he told me.

Doug arrived at MTV’s Midtown offices in September, 1984, fresh from gigs at CNN and Entertainment Tonight. He was just 25-years-old.

“This was the summer of Born in the USA, Purple Rain, and Off the Wall. And then Madonna dropped into the scene,” he remembers. “It was the Mount Rushmore of music videos.”

As MTV’s first News Director, he helped transform the 3-year-old network’s news operation from VJ-hosted rip and reads, to enterprise, prime-time journalism.

This week, Doug talks about how watching Saturday Night Live in his Patterson, New Jersey, living room, and seeing Bob Marley live in a Kingston, Jamaica, stadium, helped shape his worldview. 

He shares stories about being recruited by – and almost turning down – MTV co-founders, John Sykes and Bob Pittman, branding ten-to-the-hour-every-hour news briefs, hiring Kurt Loder, launching the Week in Rock, and evolving the Video Music Awards. 

He explains the channel’s pivot from music videos to programming once and for all, plus the decision to keep the channel forever young, and the straight line from The Real World to Instagram.

And Doug recalls a pesky, teenaged hip-hop act pilfering records from the MTV Newsroom that called themselves Beastie Boys, storming the stage at Live Aid, and hanging with Bruce Springsteen.

Listen to “You Hear It First: An Unofficial & Unfiltered Oral History of MTV News” on Apple or Spotify now.

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