The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

18 July 2008

Rachel Maddow Enjoys Mainstream Media Accolades

DAMNED BY PRAISE?

Maddow's Mainstream Media Affection May Prove Damaging







Can a potentially up- and- coming host be destroyed by positive publicity?

That's the situation facing libtalker and MSNBC fill-in Rachel Maddow, who has seen a rapid relative rise propped up by lavish praise from the mainstream media.

Now, even the New York Times is openly speculating that she may replace Chris Matthews on the ratings- challenged cable network:


For clues about who might be next to get a show on MSNBC, viewers need not have looked further than “Countdown” earlier this month. For eight nights beginning just before the Fourth of July, Rachel Maddow, the host of a program on Air America, the liberal talk-radio network, served as a substitute for the vacationing Keith Olbermann.

“At some point, I don’t know when, she should have a show,” said Phil Griffin, hours before he was promoted on Wednesday to president of MSNBC. “She’s on the short list. It’s a very short list. She’s at the top.”

At the moment every slot at night on MSNBC is taken, with David Gregory at 6 handing off to Chris Matthews at 7, and with Dan Abrams at 9 following Mr. Olbermann at 8. But some shuffling could be in the offing; Mr. Matthews’s contract, for example, is up next year.

For her part, Ms. Maddow, who has been a ubiquitous presence as a political analyst on MSNBC this campaign season, said she is ready whenever the call should come. To hasten that process, she recently hired Mr. Olbermann’s agent, Jean Sage.

“They know I would love to do it,” Ms. Maddow, 35, said over a recent lunch below 30 Rockefeller Plaza. “I’m going to let them decide what they want to do about me. I’m saying yes every time they ask me to be on television.”


But positive press attention has been the undoing of many fledgling media stars in the past, especially when one is foolish enough to believe it. Coverage that emphasizes Maddow's relatively humble beginnings contrasts with private industry indications that she's more difficult to work with than is commonly known.

As annoying and frequently unprofessional as Matthews may appear, could a rank amateur really take his place? It would take talent, gravitas, entertainment value, warmth and maturity to step into any full-time cable talk role.

So far, Maddow needs improvement in many of these areas. Moreover, talent is innate: something one is born with that usually can't be developed out of thin air.

Despite praise from the Cult of Olbermann, Maddow's delivery remains stiff, as though she's trying out for an NPR gig.


Other lingering issues:


Despite her lack of talk radio experience beyond Air America, she's developed a reputation internally for resisting necessary coaching. Where did Rachel get the idea she'd mastered the medium? Oh yes, the mainstream media and lefty bloggers.


Within Air America's lineup, she's generally turned in the weakest ratings performance, not an easy feat at a failed network that needs billionaires to keep it afloat. She's been shifted across their lineup several times, finally settling into an relatively unimportant evening slot.


She's demonstrated a lack of commitment to talk radio: the first hour of her "show" is now an MSNBC simulcast that features her as a panelist. In addition, the third hour is often hosted by someone else.


Maddow has been especially unwilling to promote her show in key settings such as industry gatherings, even when they take place in Manhattan. These events are not beneath talk radio's biggest stars, but you won't see Rachel there.


She's so tied to nutty Keith Olbermann that developing an independent personna could be difficult.


Maddow often tries to win arguments through cheap debate tactics and sleazy approaches. She also has a particular habit of hiding extremist rhetoric behind a calm delivery. Unless she comes up with some new tricks, she could easily be defeated by any opponent who spends more than a few minutes studying her style.


She can occasionally be surprisingly naïve or ill- informed, such as the time she inadvertently attacked a key Air America financial backer on the air.


The constant references to her educational background, right down to the stupid "Ask Dr Maddow" segment on the radio program, have frankly grown tiresome. Life experiences are more valuable in the medium than sheltering one's self in an academic setting until age 30.


If it isn't too late to save Maddow from believing her own press, she should keep one thing in mind: Al Franken received many times more fluffy media coverage and it did nothing to boost his own weak ratings performance.


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10 Comments:

  • They should give this Rachel Maddow dude a shot; he provides a nice manly contrast to Olberman and Matthews.

    By Anonymous Kensington, at 18 July, 2008 23:31  

  • I'm not sure Rachel is qualified to replace Matthews, but I'm sure there is a trained dog who is.

    By Blogger Ken, at 18 July, 2008 23:58  

  • The question is not, "Could a rank amateur replace Chris Matthews?" The question is, "Why has someone so rank, not been replaced by an amateur?" The question is not, "Can anyone else do what Chris Matthews does?" The question is, "Why does MSNBC value what Chris Matthews does?" Face it, he's awful. He's shrill, hysterical, undignified. Yet MSNBC seems to think that's the way to go. Otherwise there would be options. Sensible options. But MSNBC has a bizarre fixation with lunatics, e.g. Keith Olbermann, who represent the worst of America, bereft of any of the common sense or common decency that made this great country what it is. In the end, MSNBC inability to connect with the American people, and their insistence on inflicting the public with the likes of Matthews and Olbermann will be that network's undoing.

    By Blogger KTRush, at 19 July, 2008 00:13  

  • The question is not, "Could a rank amateur replace Chris Matthews?" The question is, "Why has someone so rank, not been replaced by an amateur?" The question is not, "Can anyone else do what Chris Matthews does?" The question is, "Why does MSNBC value what Chris Matthews does?" Face it, he's awful. He's shrill, hysterical, undignified. Yet MSNBC seems to think that's the way to go. Otherwise there would be options. Sensible options. But MSNBC has a bizarre fixation with lunatics, e.g. Keith Olbermann, who represent the worst of America, bereft of any of the common sense or common decency that made this great country what it is. In the end, MSNBC inability to connect with the American people, and their insistence on inflicting the public with the likes of Matthews and Olbermann will be that network's undoing.

    By Blogger KTRush, at 19 July, 2008 00:14  

  • Interesting development on Maddow.
    Must confess, I watched her fill in for Olbermann and she did hold her own.

    But her getting a slot at MSNBC could frighten the daylights out of fast- talking Chris. That's usaully considered his turf. Will keep a close eye on what happens... this election season we need to be engaged by the best.
    www.vernasmith.blogspot.com

    By Anonymous VernaSmith, at 19 July, 2008 01:05  

  • "At the moment every slot at night on MSNBC is taken"

    What about the Keith Obamamann repeat at 10 pm ET on MSNBC? Surely they could push back the reshowing an hour or two and put in fresh material at 10 pm ET.

    By Blogger Chromium, at 19 July, 2008 12:08  

  • I see big shakeups coming:

    * Rachel Maddow takes over Hardball.

    * Chris Matthews is demoted to running Countdown.

    * Keith Olbermann gets a mega promotion and takes over NBC News' "Meet the Press"

    * GE (owner of NBC and MSNBC) stock price crashes so low, it is pulled from the exchange.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 19 July, 2008 13:57  

  • You righties are showing your collective arses again! The righties had total control of everything under Bush. His reign of terror is about over. Thank God. So it's only fitting that we should get some truth back into telvision after this and put some progressives on. Since we should by all accounts, get a Dem in the White House in the next 4 years. I for one can't wait! It's been long overdue!
    On Maddow! On Obermann, and while you're at it bring on Rhodes and Miller and maybe even Thom Hartmann!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 July, 2008 07:01  

  • Brian said:She's so tied to nutty Keith Olbermann that developing an independent personna could be difficult


    Nutty? Why? Because his views represent 80% of America?? Damm wack job, reflecting what Americans think about Bush?

    only nut-job on television is O'riley who thinks a woman's health care should not cover birth control, because birth control is not necessary nor a medical necissity for women, unlike viagra for men!! In Bill O'riley's mind there is no necessity nor health sinifiance for a woman controling her own reproductive cycle, it is all a choice and how dare health care plan (which you pay for) cover your reproductive needs !!!
    Of course EVERY last gynocologist would fall over in amazement since his views completly counter reality.


    no Brian, Olberman reporting on the sleeze in the White House, the corrupt scum running this nation does not make him "nutty". O'riley is out of the mainstream and totally out of reality, not Olberman.

    Brian, you are indeed a ascist of the highest order, anyone who dares report on Republicans is "nutty". Sorry at 23%, you are nutty.

    By Anonymous SickInTheHeadBilldo, at 21 July, 2008 09:55  

  • Too much positive attention? Jeez, Malone, that's something you never had to worry about.

    Jealous much?

    What television show are you on currently?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 23 July, 2008 14:17  

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