Remembering MTV News: A Staple of Music Journalism 

As of June 24, 2024 the MTV News website has completely vanished, taking with it over two decades of content. This comes after the closure of MTV News in 2023 by its parent company Paramount.

The result of this wipe, thousands of pieces of music journalism, including interviews, columns, and archives are now lost. With this massive blow to music journalism, let’s look back at the history of MTV News and how it shaped the field. 

MTV News

The history of MTV News has to begin with the beginnings of MTV as a whole. MTV began broadcasting on August 1st, 1981 at 12:01 AM. The channel execs must have known the magnitude of this launch, inaugurating the channel with footage of the Columbia Space shuttle launch and moon landing, all edited to feature the MTV logo. In many ways, the launch of MTV was as consequential as the moon landing for the music industry, changing the way audiences consumed music forever. 

Prior to the launch of MTV, the music video was a fledgling medium. While superstars like the Beatles, and Bob Dylan had recorded videos to accompany songs in the 1960s, they were far from what we would consider music videos today. For instance the Beatles’ performances feature in the narrative of their 1964 hit film A Hard Day’s Night rather than acting as standalone videos. Even Bob Dylan’s iconic “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video was part of the larger Don’t Look Back documentary. Despite this lack of videos, music television was extremely popular thanks to programming like Midnight Special. These programs often featured live performances, as music videos were still not widely established as a practice. 

MTV changed all of this in 1981. Following its inaugural broadcast, the station screened its first music video: the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The song’s title seemed to foreshadow exactly what MTV would do to the music industry. Because of MTV, the music video became a common part of any album roll out, with the medium becoming its own art form. 

By 1984, MTV was a staple of American television, reaching 25.4 million households across the country. With this wide spread, MTV became a tastemaker for America’s youth. New Wave artists like the Human League, and Adam Ant were kicking off the “second British invasion” thanks to frequent play on the station. By the end of the decade, MTV had made the music video the paramount form of promotion, propelling superstars like Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Cyndi Lauper even further into stardom.

Off of this massive broadcasting success, MTV launched MTV news in 1987. MTV News began with the twice weekly program The Week In Rock. In 30 minute segments, the program featured news about award shows and tours, and interviews with the biggest stars in music. This programming added a journalistic edge to MTV’s programming, featuring high quality reporting that was still entertaining to the station’s young audience. 

At the helm of MTV News was Kurt Loder. By the time of The Week in Rock’s launch, Loder was already an established figure in music journalism. Starting in 1976, Loder was writing for New York-based music magazines, beginning with Long Island’s Good Times. By 1978, Loder had moved to Manhattan to write for Circus, focusing on heavy metal, punk, and other emerging genres. He admits that the writing of Circus was not always the most admirable “it was a foregone conclusion that writing of any technical ambition about new acts of any real excitement or interest would make it in the mag only by the sheerest accident.”

In 1979, Loder began a 9-year career as one of the most prolific writers at Rolling Stone Magazine. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career prior to MTV was co-authoring Tina Turner’s 1986 autobiography I, Tina. The book quickly became a best-seller, launching the film adaptation What’s Love Got to Do with It, launching Loder further into the public eye. It was following this that MTV approached Loder to head their newly-established news desk. 

“Linda Corradina called me and asked, ‘Have you thought about being in TV?’ I hadn’t — ever. So I went over and did a camera test, which was pretty awful, I think. And suddenly, I was there”

– Kurt Loder

Introduced by the guitar intro of Megadeth’s “Peace Sells,” Loder brought features on some of the biggest musical groups of the era. Early stories featured Depeche Mode, Public Enemy, and Anthrax. Loder’s presence brought a seriousness and professionalism to the station, while providing quality interviews and commentary. Up to that point, many viewed MTV as a raunchier, rather unserious network for America’s youth. However, Loder and MTV News proved that its programming could be just as diligent and well-produced as established news stations. While being professional, the programing managed to retain MTV’s trademark sense of rebelliousness.

Soon after its founding, MTV News began to incorporate politics and society into its repertoire in addition to music. This came to a head in 1992, preceding that year’s presidential election. In the leadup to the election, MTV News launched a $1 million “Choose or Lose” campaign to encourage young people to vote. Accompanying this was frequent political coverage, making up about 25% of its programming. In June 1992, MTV News aired “Choose or Lose: Facing the Future with Bill Clinton,” a 90 minute program featuring the candidate answering young people’s questions. By election day, the number of 18-20 year olds voting was up by 20% aiding in Bill Clinton’s electoral victory. 

Despite this incorporation of politics, MTV News still remained one of the premier sources for music journalism. Perhaps one of the defining moments of MTV News’ 90s output came in the follow up of Kurt Cobain’s death. On April 5, 1994, Kurt Loder interrupted MTV’s regular programming to announce the news of Cobain’s death. This broadcast was the first time many people had heard the news, launching a wave of nationwide mourning for the biggest rock star of the era. In addition to the announcement, Loder’s coverage provided a thoughtful tribute to Cobain’s career, influence, and talent. 

Following a decade of success of TV reporting, MTV News launched its website in 1996. Over the course of the next 20 years, the site became a haven for online music journalism. It hosted thousands of articles and artist interviews. Of note was the site’s hip-hop archives, such as the “Monday Mixtape” column, which featured many early interviews with future stars. 

After three decades of operation, MTV News ran into serious financial woes. This began in 2017, with the site’s shift towards video content, laying off most of its editorial staff. These problems came to a head in May 2023, as Paramount announced it would shut down MTV News. With this announcement, its television and internet content was abruptly brought to a halt. 

Despite this, the MTV News site remained open for over a year. However, on June 24, 2024, MTV removed the site and all of its content from the internet. Among the first to notice was former MTV News journalist Patrick Hosken. Writing on X, Hosken said “So, no longer exists. Eight years of my life are gone without a trace.” If users try to access the website, they will now be redirected to the home page. MTV has not given a reason for the website’s removal, however some such as music journalist Alex Young have speculated it could be due to hosting and legal costs. 

Music lovers have taken to X to express their disappointment in the site’s deletion. Rolling Stone Senior Writer Brian Hiatt called it “disgraceful,” with Entertainment Weekly News Director Jillian Sederholm adding it was “devastatingly cruel to journalists.”

With the loss of MTV News, let’s remember the programming that helped bring music journalism to America’s youth. With Kurt Loder and countless music journalists, their television and online programming helped provide America’s youth with updates on everything from the Pet Shop Boys to the Presidency, all while establishing MTV as a news source to be reckoned with.

Those interested in exploring the history of MTV News can explore archival versions on the Wayback Machine.

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