Don't forget to tune in to the premier of Rachel Maddow's new show this coming Monday, Sept. 8 at 6PM PST/9PM EST
Here's a good article on Maddow and what this means in the media:
Thursday Aug. 21, 2008 08:47 EDT
The decay of serious journalism and Rachel Maddow's new show
As our political culture, economic security, standing in the world and our media institutions have all degraded beyond recognition after eight years of right-wing rule (much of it cheered on by The New Republic), what is The New Republic's Sacha Zimmerman deeply worried about? MSNBC's decision to give liberal Rachel Maddow her own show:
"I really like Maddow and have found her thoroughly compelling throughout this latest campaign season, but I am not so thrilled about this trend toward partisan networks and news. By all means we should have progressive and conservative commentators and analysts, but is there no room for argument between the two? Where have all the iconoclasts gone? With this split in the networks and a near perfect red-blue divide nationwide, it seems that we are more and more retreating to our comfortable trenches and refusing to acknowledge anything but spite, paranoia, and conspiracy theory when it comes to the other side. And, since cable news is not exactly renowned for its nuance or intellectual rigor, knee-jerk reactions can pass for smart commentary. I think Maddow will be a wonderful host (and God knows MSNBC could use a smart woman), but how exciting is it really if she is just preaching to the choir?"
Over the past seven years, the following people have hosted prime-time cable news shows: Joe Scarborough (MSNBC), Michael Savage (MSNBC), Glenn Beck (CNN), Tucker Carlson (MSNBC), Nancy Grace (CNN), Bill O'Reilly (Fox) and Sean Hannity (Fox). None of that seemed to bother the likes of Zimmerman. None of that was depicted as the downfall of objective journalism or the destruction of civil, elevated, high-minded discourse. Quite the contrary, Zimmerman practically went into mourning when Tucker Carlson's MSNBC show was canceled. Here's the very same Sacha Zimmerman -- Crusader for Post-Partisan Substantive Discourse -- in a March, 2008 TNR article:
"March brought the end of MSNBC's "Tucker," the low-rated but spirited and quirky roundtable news show hosted by the once-bow-tied Tucker Carlson. I was awfully sad to see it leave the airwaves (full disclosure: I appeared on the program several times); it was a fun show that addressed the topics of the day without devolving into Lou Dobbesian agendas, Chris Matthews-like scream fests, Bill O'Reilly smears, or Wolf Blitzer droning snoozers. . . .
Whatever bad memories you may have of Tucker Carlson's "Crossfire" days, the most recent iteration of his show on MSNBC allowed him to return to expressing the kind of nuanced insight that first got him noticed as a young conservative writer. Carlson has certainly inflamed his share of liberals (among other things, he called the NAACP "a sad joke that should be shut down" and called Bill Clinton a "sanctimonious jerk"), but then he's not exactly reliably conservative, either."
What made Zimmerman even more distraught about the cancellation of Carlson's high-minded show was that he was replaced by David Gregory, someone who -- at least in Zimmerman's mind -- had been profoundly disrespectful to Bush officials, who was therefore disliked by the Right, and therefore brought discredit to our Nation and the Journalism Profession:
"I didn't get mad about the end of Carlson's show -- cable television is, after all, a fickle mistress -- until I saw its replacement: "Race for the White House," hosted by President Bush's favorite sparring partner himself, David "Stretch" Gregory. . . . But Gregory has also initiated shouting matches in almost every exchange he had with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and generally allowed histrionics to set the tone for his coverage. Despite his often piercing and on-point questions, this behavior has cemented David Gregory as a liberal-media-conspiracy incarnate in the eyes of conservatives and a kind of tough-questioning hero to many on the anti-Bush left. The conservative Accuracy In Media even started a letter-writing campaign aimed at shunning Gregory. But no matter your view -- and no matter Gregory's personal political beliefs -- the decision to use the journalistic lightning rod further distances MSNBC from the cause of good political analysis."
For years, cable news -- well beyond just Fox -- has been suffuse with the hardest-right ideologues. Virtually every Karl Rove disciple not formally with the McCain campaign is now employed in some capacity in the media. Dan Bartlett just joined CBS News as a "political analyst", and just today, Time announced that it has hired Mike Murphy, GOP strategist and former chief McCain adviser, as a new columnist and new poster at Swampland, and he promptly wrote a column filled with trite Rovian platitudes about how Obama is "irresistible to the wine-and-cheese lovers" but can't connect with the salt-of-the-earth working-class People because Obama "reminds them of the Ivy League whiz kids they've dealt with at work during the latest downsizing."
Ever since MSNBC's extremely suspect and viewpoint-based cancellation of Phil Donohue's Show in the run-up to the Iraq War, it's been almost harder to find an actual liberal on cable news than it is to find a Marty Peretz post free of ugly anti-Arab smears. Yet the ascension of Keith Olbermann -- who is far more a Bush critic than he is a doctrinaire liberal -- by itself spawned a cascade of panic. Olbermann's success at MSNBC means that Modern Journalism is now threatened because -- as AP put it -- "Olbermann's popularity and evolving image as an idealogue (sic) has led NBC News to stretch traditional notions of journalistic objectivity." AP even asserted that Olbermann's status as a news anchor means that MSNBC is even more biased than Fox, which at least has the decency to keep a non-partisan, serious news man like Brit Hume -- who only explicitly spouts extremist right-wing rhetoric on Sunday -- as its anchor: "Fox has never done that, perhaps mindful of the immediate controversy that would result."
And now Rachel Maddow's show is triggering even further upset at The New Republic and places like here ("This underscores the question of whether MSNBC is taking a foolish risk in over-committing itself to a single point of view"). And of course Howard Kurtz -- who adoringly hailed Brit Hume's supreme objectivity and credibility as a news anchor -- promptly noted:
"[Maddow's] appointment is certain to draw criticism that MSNBC is moving further left in an attempt to compete with Fox News from the opposite end of the spectrum. John McCain's Republican campaign has repeatedly assailed the network's campaign coverage as biased."
Maddow is unquestionably one of the smartest and most incisive commentators anywhere on television -- perhaps the smartest. One would think that the presence of smart commentary in the wasteland known as "cable news" would be cause for celebration among those super-Serious intellects at TNR. Zimmerman even brings herself to recognize that Maddow's "no mere histrionic provocateur" and "has proved herself to be a savvy commentator with quick, smart takes on the news of the day." But no matter. She's a liberal -- and, therefore, to the Tucker-Carlson-loving Sacha Zimmermans of the world, her mere presence is likely to infect and degrade our political discourse with shrill, overheated, fringe, sickly partisan rhetoric -- "refusing to acknowledge anything but spite, paranoia, and conspiracy theory when it comes to the other side."
The reaction to Maddow's show highlights just how suffocatingly narrow, and right-wing, the spectrum of mainstream political discourse in America is. Hiring Michael Savage, Joe Scarboroug