Skip to comments.Rachelís Show: Maddow is part of the new matriarchy running NBC News behind the scenes
Posted on 01/06/2014 8:13:02 AM PST by SeekAndFind
MSNBC, the left-leaning cable-news network, has settled on one solution to its recent problems. It now has an executive reviewing scripts before they go on the air. The role, which has fallen to Rich Stockwell, a former executive producer of The Ed Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann who now oversees special projects at the network, was created as several of the networks hosts have, to the embarrassment of network brass, conducted a master class in political incorrectness. In recent months, Alec Baldwin, Martin Bashir, and, most recently, Melissa Harris-Perry have awkwardly crashed into the trinity of sexual orientation, gender, and race, leading many to wonder if there are any adults in charge at MSNBC.
There is one such adult, actually, and her name is Rachel Maddow. Though she provides the networks ideological vision MSNBC president Phil Griffin has called her our quarterback shes neither an executive nor a manager. Griffin, who wears both hats, is, from all appearances, letting the inmates run the asylum. Meanwhile, the network that Griffin has labeled the place for progressives is experiencing a free fall in its ratings, which are down 29 percent from 2012. A decline was expected after a presidential-election year, but MSNBCs competitors did not suffer as acutely. Fox News was down only 5 percent in total viewers (it suffered far more in the coveted 2554 demographic, where the network has persistently struggled); CNNs numbers, under the stewardship of newly installed president Jeff Zucker, remained flat.
Apologies are rare in the world of television, but they have come from MSNBC at a regular clip in recent months. Anti-gay slurs are wrong, Baldwin said in late November. Days before, he had accosted a photographer who was following his family and allegedly hurled an anti-gay slur in his direction. The same day Baldwin issued his apology, Martin Bashir took to the air with a clumsy pontification about Sarah Palin, slavery, and human excrement. By early December, both Baldwin and Bashir had announced that they were leaving the network.
The dust had hardly settled before Tulane professor cum MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry was tearfully apologizing to families formed through transracial adoption. She had led a holiday humor segment on December 30 that used as its jumping-off point a Romney-family photo. Harris-Perry said the segment took an unexpected turn as her guests poked fun at Mitt Romneys adopted African-American grandson.
Few, though, suspect that Harris-Perry will suffer the same fate as her less fortunate colleagues, and MSNBC declined to comment on the matter. Thats because Harris-Perry is part of Maddows in-crowd, the liberal, wonkish elite now ascendant at MSNBC.
Sources say it is Maddow rather than Phil Griffin who provides MSNBCs editorial direction, and that she also holds considerable sway over personnel decisions. I know Im never going to get freakin talking points from Phil, Maddow told The New Yorker last year. Can you imagine? Like, what would they be?
Behind her back, colleagues call her the queen, a not so subtle suggestion that Maddow gets what Maddow wants. And what she wants is a network filled with young wonks such as Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, Alex Wagner, and Harris-Perry, whose highbrow intellectualism can, she hopes, push the Democratic party, and the country, to the left. On Twitter, Harris-Perrys show proudly uses the hashtag #nerdland. Alex Wagners move to the 4 p.m. hour, where Bashirs show once aired, has Maddows fingerprints on it.
Griffin, who came of age as a sports producer at CNN and then as a booker on the Today show, is, according to a former colleague, utterly non-ideological. He makes decisions, says the former colleague, based on 30-day trailing numbers and lacks a strategic vision. Maddow, who came aboard in 2008, has filled the ideological void. Alec Baldwin and Martin were outliers; they werent part of her inner circle, says a television insider. Bashirs contract was up, he was twisting in the wind when this happened, and he was out of sync with Rachels ideology.
As Maddows foes have suffered, her acolytes have prospered chief among them, 34-year-old Brown University graduate Chris Hayes, who last April replaced Ed Schultz, the warrior progressive from the Plains. You did it, Maddow announced as Hayes wrapped up his inaugural show. We did it, Hayes replied, as he turned the reins over to Maddow for her 9 p.m. show. It was April 1, 2013, Maddows 40th birthday, and the pair celebrated accordingly. This was a very, very nice birthday present for you to give me, doing such an awesome show, she said. So great that youre here, Chris. I could not be more excited. As Hayes and Maddow patted each other on the back, Schultz was toiling away in a weekend timeslot. (MSNBC has since reinstalled Schultz in the weekday lineup, after viewers made it clear that they missed his loudmouthed advocacy for the working man.)
Maddow herself is the highest-paid and highest-rated talent at MSNBC, but beyond her own program, her quest to fill the network with her protégés may be dragging down ratings. Being an intellectual and a true believer is not, it seems, a good thing if youre in the ratings business. Though Maddow looks askance at populist showmen such as Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, and Al Sharpton, their shows regularly outperform those of Maddows wonky acolytes. In fact, Hayess show has created a drag on Maddows own ratings as his anemic numbers provide her with a weak lead-in.
I liked Rachel because she is totally sincere, she is what she seems to be, shes smart, she loves to debate for its own sake, says Tucker Carlson, a former MSNBC host. After watching a tape her agent sent along, Carlson (who is also co-founder of the Daily Caller) championed Maddow in the face of Griffins initial objections. She was, at the time, a radio host at the now-defunct Air America network. I always got along with Rachel. Shes a hard worker, shes not a bullshitter, he says. Maddow appeared regularly on Carlsons show and began substituting for former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. Then she got her own show in the summer of 2008, when Griffin decided to make the network, which had once employed conservatives such as Carlson, Pat Buchanan, and Michael Savage, a refuge for liberals and an answer to Fox News. It was a business calculation, not an ideological move.
Maddow, by contrast, is motivated by ideology. If you debate for a living, youre going to lose sometimes. Sometimes your preconceptions are wrong that has never happened to her one time, says a former colleague. She is actually not that interested in reality; she is the most ideological person Ive ever met. That is not somebody you want in charge of your programming, because she might put on a great show, but she cannot make rational decisions her agenda is changing America. . . . She really thinks she is changing America for the better. You cant have somebody like that in charge of your programming.
Like the Democratic party itself, MSNBC is in transition. The party is no longer a coalition encompassing big labor, Hollywood, white ethnics, teachers unions, and minorities. Under President Obama, it has shed much of its blue-collar constituency while consolidating its gains among minorities, college-educated whites (women in particular), gays, and members of public-sector unions. A former MSNBC employee describes MSNBCs transition this way: When I worked there, it was axiomatic that all of our viewers were white thats what Phil Griffin said point blank. Rachel has decided to make a play for black viewers. The New Yorker reported last year that MSNBCs audience is now 30 percent African American.
MSNBCs wonks, nonetheless, are seeing weak ratings because the cable-television audience does not mirror the American, or Democratic, electorate. Its older: A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 57 percent of Maddows audience is past 50, compared with 43 percent of all Americans. Its also slightly less educated: According to the same study, 26 percent of MSNBC viewers have a college degree, compared with 29 percent of all Americans. Of course, the numbers can be parsed in many ways, but its difficult to imagine theres a large appetite among MSNBCs core audience for the graduate-level punditry served up by Maddows protégés. Nielsen data which showed the network last year posting its lowest prime-time ratings since 2007 both in the coveted 2554 demographic and in total viewers reflect that mismatch.
Theyre just not going to get those people watching cable news, says a longtime cable-news insider. Thats why their numbers suck. If they were going to go populist, I think they could challenge Fox. What if you took that brand of Hey, middle-class America, youre getting screwed by the banks and by the educated class, by the environmental movement? Wow, I think you could beat Fox on that.
The new step of having Rich Stockwell review scripts before they air is an attempt to impose order on the chaos reigning at the network. Phil was a producer, trained from the beginning to accommodate hosts hes incapable of reining these guys in, says a former colleague. He points to Olbermann, who left the network after spinning out of control three years ago. Though network executives said the relationship between Olbermann and MSNBC had been deteriorating for a long time, Griffins former colleague describes Olbermann, now at ESPN, as a broadcaster who was talented as hell and who could have been an enduring star if Phil had been strong enough to keep him between the lines. Instead, he says, Phil let him destroy himself. Griffins current challenge, it appears, is to keep Rachel Maddow from running roughshod over the network in a similar fashion as she seeks to remake it in her image.
NBCs news group has undergone profound changes in the last year, and Griffin remains the last man standing from the inner circle of Jeff Zucker, the NBC chief fired after Comcast wrested control of the company from General Electric. Many insiders are baffled that Griffin has survived so long, with Comcast aggressively purging mandarins of an old order known for fat expense accounts, long lunches, and resting on their laurels.
Phil is too close to the old-boy culture at the old NBC to survive a bad spell, especially with this matriarchy in charge now, an insider said, referring to the overwhelmingly female leadership that has recently taken over NBC News. One more MSNBC host says something stupid, and thats it.
So will this series of embarrassing public incidents induce NBC to make a change at the top at MSNBC and impose more discipline? Or will it allow Maddows ideological preferences to continue to define the channel?
My life is better with every year of living it, Maddow told Vanity Fair in 2012.
Its good to be queen to be a liberal paid millions by a publicly traded company to spread the progressive gospel. Rachel Maddow, striding about Rockefeller Plaza in her colored sneakers, may be the luckiest woman in television. For now.
Eliana Johnson is media editor of National Review Online.
If there was any doubt, hiring maybe America’s biggest scoundrel, Al Sharpton, is further proof of how demented these people are. Everybody at MSLSD should be ashamed of themselves.
Look for Valerie Jarrett to be the new News Director when she leaves the WH.................if she leaves................
MSNBC is the new ERROR AMERICA
Complete with pajama-boy smirk.
(All liberals seem to be infected with that characteristic)
Beat me by 4 mins. . .
If it’s Maddow, shouldn’t the title of the article use the term “Androgyarchy”?
The biggest shock to me about Rachel is that she is younger then me by 6 or 7 years. She is not aging well. Poor woman will look 60 by the time she is 40.
It’s a pseudo-patriarch, it is not a matriarch.
“What if you took that brand of Hey, middle-class America, youre getting screwed by the banks and by the educated class, by the environmental movement? Wow, I think you could beat Fox on that.
Since they are the educated class and the environmental movement, that’s just what they can’t do.
On the other hand, their natural allies, the liberal upper-middle class professinals, are discovering that they are in fact the evil rich who have to be taxed to support social programs.
And this leaves?
Don't you have to be a woman (and have had the kind of sex that produces kids) to be part of a matriarchy?
Oh no!! You owe me a new computer keyboard. . .I spewed my coffee when I laughed.
The article points out the obvious, that almost no one wastes their time watching MSNBC.
However, William F. Buckley must be turning over in his grave to think someone working for the publication he founded thinks the idiots at MSNBC are intellectuals. There is no one at MSNBC who comes within a light-year of being an intellectual. They are dumber than a box of rocks. They are mean spirited dummies who merely parrot the Democrat Party talking points. None of them are capable of insight or original thought. They just repeat the same tired points over and over again adding in vile, disgusting insults every so often.
I suppose the author thinks it is the sign of a true intellectual to say they hope someone will defecate in Sarah Palin’s mouth or some of the other stupid, vicious things they say.
Supposedly, in addition to Comcast's CEO having his head up BHO's behind even more than Bill O'Reilly, Sharpton threatened to lobby the FCC to block the Comcast acquisition of NBC et al, unless they "diversified" their hosts, by at least one black guy in particular...
After I watch Rachel Maddow I get this weird feeling I have hair caught in my teeth..
Wrong. The White House is running NBC News, and gAyBC, and cBS, . . .