Kurt Loder, MTV News, and Us: A Retrospective

by Danielle Vintschger

Image via MTV News

Image via MTV News

The other day, I wrote the following Facebook status update:

I grew up in the generation that lived in fear of Kurt Loder breaking into programming to announce that one of our heroes was dead.

I got loads of reactions and comments, all from those of us who were teenagers during the Loder Years, 1987-1994, and it got me thinking that Kurt Loder, during that time, was our source for news. We grumble and grouse now that MTV has gone down the toilet, which of course it has, and fondly look back on the endless delights of 120 Minutes, Yo MTV Raps, and my personal favorite, Headbangers’ Ball. But it was Loder, John Norris, Tabitha Soren, and Chris Connelly who were there during the commercials, and at the daily MTV News, that brought us the news we wanted, the news we needed, the news we weren't going to get from the stuffy Dan Rathers and Tom Brokaws of the day.

Find me one person around the age of 40 who wasn't glued to MTV on April 5, 1994 when Kurt Loder broke into the day's programming to announce, with trembling voice, that Kurt Cobain's body had been found at his Seattle home. Whether you were a fan of Nirvana or the grunge movement at all was really insignificant that day and the weeks following. This was our generation's first major celebrity death. I remember hearing about River Phoenix the year before over the radio, and of course turned immediately to MTV for coverage of that, but it was Loder's round the clock coverage of Cobain's death that, for a moment in time, turned MTV into a 24-hour news channel and a generation into pop culture newshounds.

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And of course who can forget MTV News Rock The Vote in the 1992 election of Bill Clinton? For the first time we were political beings. We were the voice of change and were told by MTV that we mattered. We — the disheveled young in flannels and Doc Martens — could make a difference in politics. And we did. We came out in droves to campaign and be seen, and matter for the first time. Even if we were still too young to vote, we watched Bill Clinton's town hall on MTV and felt that he was listening to us. It opened not just our minds but our hearts to being people of substance in the world.

Since this was all before the internet, Fox and MSNBC and 24-hour news cycles — hell, even before cell phones — we had word of mouth. We had rallies and concerts and festivals. And we had MTV News. And who was the leader of that? One Mr. Kurt Loder. That's damn right.

So we salute you, Kurt Loder. MTV might be a cesspool of empty reality shows and not much else now, but we will not forget the impact you and MTV News had on our blossoming young lives. We who watched you and your compatriots teach us, the great unwashed, that we mattered as people. You, who informed us, never spoke down to us, helped us to be aware and proactive in the world. We thank you. You, and we, left MTV long ago. But those salad years will never be forgotten. Nor should they.

 

Danielle Vintschger is a freelance writer, mental health advocate, aging metalhead, and seltzer water connoisseur. Find her at missbanshee.com, and @missbanshee on Twitter.