The Fuse television network has turned to news veteran Rick Kaplan, who has run CNN and MSNBC and produced programs like "Nightline," to develop a music news program aimed largely at people some 40 years younger than him.
"Fuse News" is set to debut Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. Eastern time with pre-Grammy Awards coverage. The half-hour show, originating from Fuse's studios across from Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, will be repeated at midnight.
"A lot of people are covering music in different ways," said Mike Bair, president of MSG Media, Fuse's corporate ownership. "But not a lot of people are covering it deeper and in a respectful way. We thought there was a real opportunity for us."
Fuse, available in some 70 million homes, is overshadowed by MTV, but unlike its competitor has kept its focus on music and is looking for a signature show.
Kaplan, 65, walked through a busy newsroom with TVs tuned to a Fuse countdown of sexy rap videos one recent afternoon. The 47-time Emmy winner had most recently produced Katie Couric's "CBS Evening News" and Christiane Amanpour's stint on ABC's Sunday morning and has formed his own consulting company.
Bair reached out to Kaplan through a mutual friend to gauge interest, and the idea intrigued Kaplan.
"While he's not in the target audience for Fuse (the network's median age is around 27), I think he also saw the opportunity," Bair said.
A whiteboard in Fuse's office already lists story plans for the first month. The collapse of the traditional music industry has made for many changes ripe for examining.
One future story will talk about bands scalping tickets to their own concerts, another about the sound quality issues behind the resurgence of vinyl. If "Fuse News" was on the air last week, it wouldn't treat the story about Beyonce lip-synching at the inauguration as a joke, but rather look into how widespread the practice is, Kaplan said.
"I want it to be a place where if you're involved in the industry in any way — and that means anybody with a headset — this will be the place where you will want to go," Kaplan said.
Kaplan's tastes run to the Eagles, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Now he's learning about electronic dance music, and even liking some of it. Liz Walaszczyk, a 28-year-old producer and contributing correspondent on "Fuse News," is gently introducing her boss to bands like the Xx.
And he's introducing her to the news.
Walaszczyk, who booked bands for Carson Daly's NBC show before joining Fuse, said that she finds blogs like Pitchfork and Stereogum helpful but that there's a void in serious music journalism. Kaplan is teaching her the importance of detail in every question asked and picture selected for her stories.
"I hear his voice and I think, 'This man has spoken to so many legends,'" she said.
Co-anchors for the show are Alexa Chung and Matte Babel. Former Gawker writer Elaine Moran and Jack Osbourne are contributing correspondents.
Yes, the news producer who once worked with Walter Cronkite is telling Ozzy's kid what to do.
Kaplan brushed aside a question about whether some people in the television news business might consider his current gig a comedown.
"Oh, God no," he said. "By no means. People who say that don't get it. It's a great privilege to be asked to do this program. It's the only serious program in this (music) industry. It's a serious attempt to report on music in a credible way."
He said he's having a blast.
"In many ways, what Fuse is attempting to do with this show is more cutting edge than what any of the networks are doing," he said. "We're not starting a magazine show. We're not tinkering with the evening news."
The show will also have studio guests and music performances. Kaplan has hired Audrey Gruber, a former CBS News and CNN producer, to eventually take over for him when the show is up and running.