Rachel Maddow Gets Her Own Show

I love to read the blog The CarpetBaggerReport because Steve is simple great. But he is closing his blog to work for the Washington Monthly, a publication which gave another friend of mine his start in the media business. I wish Steve the best in his new job. The CarpetbaggerReport wrote the following:

I’m very rarely encouraged by any of the decisions made by major news outlets. Yesterday afternoon, however, was a spectacular exception.

Rachel Maddow has been sounding off about politics on MSNBC so often she might as well have her own show.

And now she does.

The liberal commentator and Air America radio host, who has become a breakout star for the cable channel during the presidential campaign, is taking over the 9 p.m. slot following Keith Olbermann, whom she often subs for on “Countdown.” Olbermann broke what he called a “fully authorized leak” yesterday on the left-wing Web site Daily Kos. Dan Abrams, the former MSNBC general manager who had been hosting “Verdict” at that hour, will continue as NBC’s chief legal correspondent, become a “Dateline” contributor and serve as a daytime anchor for MSNBC.

Rachel MaddowA recent profile of Rachel in the Nation noted, “Maddow didn’t get here by bluster and bravado but with a combination of crisp thinking and galumphing good cheer. Remarkably, this season’s discovery isn’t a glossy matinee idol or a smooth-talking partisan hack but a PhD Rhodes scholar lesbian policy wonk who started as a prison AIDS activist.”

I’d just add that Rachel is, without doubt or hesitation, the best political observer on television, and her insightful analysis of the 2008 cycle has set a very high bar for the rest of the media to follow. The question hasn’t been whether Rachel would get her own prime-time show; the question has been why Rachel didn’t already have her own prime-time show.

But when we step back and consider Rachel’s promotion in context, I think it’s fair to say this announcement isn’t just heartening — it’s important.

Ezra, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, noted that this development breaks the “rules.”

Rachel Maddow just got her own show. And Keith Olbermann announced it, as far as I can tell, in a chummy, comfortable diary on Daily Kos. You know, when I was young, this world had rules. And standards. And liberals did not get TV shows. And liberals who had TV shows did not write on DailyKos. And liberals who had TV shows and wrote on DailyKos did not get TV shows for their even more liberal guest hosts.

All true, but let’s go one step further. These same rules and standards have generally mandated that the media eschews merit-based promotions. A couple of months ago, Atrios described the punditocracy as “an accountability-free profession.” That’s been largely true throughout traditional media outlets for the last decade or so — ignorance, bombast, and ignorant bombast are rewarded.

Rachel getting her own prime-time show turns this dynamic on its head. I never thought I’d see the day.

A couple of other side notes. First, now that she has her own show, Rachel won’t be guest-hosting “Countdown” anymore. Over at dKos, Olbermann joked about his frustration with this development: “Dammit! Why didn’t I think of this! She can’t be the guest host anymore! I knew I’d forgotten something!” (I have a solution, if MSNBC cares to hear it: when Olbermann can’t do “Countdown,” just make Rachel’s show two hours, instead of one. Problem solved.)

Second, Rachel will keep her show on Air America Radio.

And third, as some of you may know, I avoid television news like the plague. I will, however, be setting the Tivo for “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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