MTV Hires 'Doyenne Of Documentaries,' Sheila Nevins, For Its New Division
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
MTV is all about youth and pop culture, which is why it is especially notable that as the channel starts a documentary division, it has hired 80-year-old Sheila Nevins to run it. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.
ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: As president of HBO Documentary Films, Sheila Nevins executive produced "When The Levees Broke," which won three Emmys...
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE")
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: My grandmother said, you know, I think this is going to be a pretty strong storm.
BLAIR: ..."Citizenfour," which won an Oscar and two Emmys...
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CITIZENFOUR")
EDWARD SNOWDEN: My name is Edward Snowden. I go by Ed.
BLAIR: ...And "Six By Sondheim," which won a Peabody.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "SIX BY SONDHEIM")
STEPHEN SONDHEIM: Once I get a scene, I sometimes will put the scene on the easel of the piano.
BLAIR: MTV is best known for shows like "Jersey Shore"...
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JERSEY SHORE")
VINNY GUADAGNINO: Yo, yo, yo.
MIKE SORRENTINO: What up, homeboy?
GUADAGNINO: What up?
BLAIR: ...And the documentary series "16 And Pregnant."
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "16 AND PREGNANT")
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Telling my mom I was pregnant was pretty scary.
BLAIR: Up until about a year ago, MTV was in a ratings slump. The Viacom unit's president, Chris McCarthy, has been turning it around. And starting a new documentary division is part of the plan. He says he's admired Sheila Nevins since he was a kid.
CHRIS MCCARTHY: We want to tell real-life stories. And Sheila's the legend that created the category.
BLAIR: Nevins says she was moved by something McCarthy told her in their first meeting.
SHEILA NEVINS: He said, you helped me be gay. My mother never knew anybody who was gay. And I watched HBO and I felt, you know - I don't know if he used this word, but I'm using it for him - I felt included and normal and possible.
BLAIR: Nevins thought, maybe they want me. But as an 80-year-old woman, she also knew she'd be judged.
NEVINS: Most people would think that I would be out to pasture or that I would be gardening or that I would be taking pictures of my grandchildren, of which I had none. But I'm really not. I'm engaged in making a difference and will be until I lose it.
BLAIR: She'd like to see MTV's new doc division cover addiction, white supremacy and climate change. And she feels a sense of urgency.
NEVINS: I think you have to bring home to this audience certain very specific things that they can act on and help change.
BLAIR: When asked for more details about the scope of the projects she might spearhead at MTV, Nevins joked, depends on how much money they give me. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.
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