MTV Titans Look Back as MTV News Shuts Down After 36 Years: 'What a Giant Cultural Force'

MTV News correspondents, former VJs and network founder Doug Herzog share their memories of the game-changing music network after its news division was abruptly shuttered

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images;Nathan Congleton/NBC
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images;Nathan Congleton/NBC

MTV News has come to an end.

On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed the network's news division was being shut down after 36 years as part of its parent company, Paramount Global, laid off 25% of its staff.

Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks president Chris McCarthy said in a staff memo, obtained by the outlet, that the network feels "pressure from broader economic headwinds like many of our peers."

While announcing news of the closure on Wednesday's episode of the Today show, Carson Daly, who was a VJ from 1998 to 2003, said the shut down was "sad" and reflected on the impact of MTV News for an entire generation.

"Columbine, 9/11, those are big events on our watch at MTV. That generation did turn to MTV News," he said. "It will be sorely missed."

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Ananda Lewis, who was a VJ from 1996 to 2001, also recalled in a statement to PEOPLE how MTV was trusted by artists and fans.

"A pillar of creative and diverse speech is crumbling. MTV News covered things no one else could," she exclusively told PEOPLE via email. "We could get inside the trailer with DMX and Korn as they were taking historic concert stages. Artists trusted MTV News to tell their stories."

She added: "Even though I was technically a VJ, I did many specials with MTV News and know firsthand what a huge loss this is for the culture of music and all who love it."

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

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Kurt Loder, who joined MTV News in 1988 and anchored the program through the 1990s, responded to the news on Twitter, writing, "Thanks to everyone for all the kind words today..."

Former MTV News correspondent Gideon Yago also shared his memories at the network from 2002 to 2007.

"I have a ton of memories from my time at MTV News. They get hazier now that I'm in my forties," he exclusively told PEOPLE in a statement. "But as for one that really sticks out? It's that we were this scrappy, underfunded little division of twenty-somethings who loved music and still had the emotional memory of what it was to be teenagers, which ended up being a really meaningful combination when it came to having to explain big events to the audience.

"When you think about the reach of that place at that time, and the way we used our microphones. I am so grateful for the experience and the folks I got to share it with."

Getty Images
Getty Images

MTV News rose to fame in the 1980s thanks to Loder, a former editor of Rolling Stone who joined the network and helped launch its "The Week in Rock" program, according to CNN. As the network continued to grow in the '90s and 2000s, it brought in a number of VJs as on-air personalities.

Many since gone on to become recognizable names in Hollywood like Vanessa Lachey, Adrienne Bailon, Bill Bellamy, Ashlee Simpson, Hilarie Burton, Pauly Shore, Dave Holmes, Tabitha Soren, Jon Norris, Suchin Pak and Sway Calloway.

Top Billin' author Bellamy, 58, told PEOPLE of MTV News's closure, "It's the ending of one the most influential news programs of pop culture. We could never replace its impact and importance to the culture of music television……Thank You MTV News!!!"

Phillip Faraone/WireImage
Phillip Faraone/WireImage

MTV News alum Brian McFayden shared a similar sentiment with PEOPLE.

"I feel like MTV was so trial by error, and MTV News shutting down, that's a tough one," he says. "It was such a huge part of American pop culture that it's just unfathomable to think that they're gone. I remember when I was a teen and hearing about Kurt Cobain passing — I think it was Kurt Loder sitting in the MTV News chair — and just being like, 'Oh, my God.' That was probably my biggest escape growing up in Nebraska, was turning on MTV."

McFayden, 46, recalls his first MTV News broadcast. "I'll never forget Dec. 15, 1999, was the very first time I got to sit in the MTV News chair," he says. "Being able to say, 'That's the news for now. Stay tuned for more news at 10 of the hour, every hour, right here on MTV,' I got choked up. I remember getting off the chair and going into my dressing room and I just started bawling. This was the first day of the rest of my career."

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Late '90s/early 2000s MTV VJ Dave Holmes spoke with former MTV News Director Doug Herzog, who went on to serve as the president of MTV Productions, about the division shutting down.

"MTV News was the place to get informed on music, fashion, sex, and even politics," Esquire Editor-at-large Holmes, 52, wrote. "It brought a youthful curiosity to the big subjects, and the analytical eye of the expert to the fluffier stuff. It was one of a kind, and like so much of what happened at MTV, it was made up as it went along."

In a reflective chat, Herzog told Holmes: "When the news broke, immediately people started reaching out from all over the MTV map, as it were. I heard from a lot of people from those very early days, when we first had our own newsroom. It was a terrific and unique group of people, a band of music-news misfits, and we just had a great time building it as we went along. That was the beauty of MTV in those days: it was new, it was growing, we were making it up. There was no rule book."

In more recent days, he admitted that "I think a lot of us forgot that it was there. Even those who were there forgot it was there. I'd say no one watches MTV anymore, certainly not on the linear channel."

As media has evolved — and memories have shortened — over the years, Herzog said, "You know, it's hard to remember what a giant cultural force MTV was in those days. It was Spotify and Snapchat and Instagram and TikTok all rolled into one, and everybody wanted to be on it. Everybody wanted to touch it. And that included future President of the United States Bill Clinton, as we started to dip our toe in the politics around Rock the Vote and then the Choose or Lose campaign."

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MTV at large filled a void that other networks weren't catering to, according to Herzog. "Well, nobody had the idea to do anything for young people. That was the brilliance of MTV. It was a television network aimed at young adults, and that just hadn't been done before," he said.

He continued, "As we got into the '90s, MTV turned the camera around onto its audience with The Real World, and to a certain degree, in terms of traditional television, we've changed everything, right? ... It's very tough to go back 35 years or whatever, and remember what MTV meant in the culture, particularly to young people. There was no precedent for it, and there's nothing like it today.

He summed up, But overall, now that it's over, I will say this: It really was as much fun as it looked like. I can say that for sure."

And he hasn't just kept memories from his time heading up MTV News: "I think I've got a couple of Peabody Awards sitting in a closet somewhere."

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