A Note on Rachel Maddow
What separates Rachel Maddow from many of her colleagues is her willingness to critique her own performance as a journalist. Her interview with Jon Stewart in November of last year covered a lot of ground and, as always, Rachel was more than willing to hear and engage critique of her own editorial process.
Rachel Maddow isn’t perfect. She is occasionally (but rarely) prone to omitting details that don’t support her thesis on a given story. But in most instances, those details are window-dressing that may serve to confuse more than help. Still, it can be perceived as editorial bias and it does happen from time to time, though, as I said, quite rarely.
Ms. Maddow is an advocacy journalist. She tells the stories she wants to tell because she believes they need to be told to her audience. She’s not a breaking news source. Her progressive sympathies are clearly on display in the selection process but once a story has been selected for air, it is most often thoroughly reported, dissenting views and all.
Rachel Maddow represents the right attitude of a journalist. Her political leanings are not obscured under a false pretense. She makes no bones about her progressive bona fides. She does not shy from who she is or try to pretend she’s being centrist when she clearly isn’t. She welcomes the criticisms of her detractors and would be perfectly happy to engage with those opponents on her own air if ever they would grant her an interview instead of just lobbing grenades from the safety of their offices, studios, columns and blog posts.
Rachel Maddow is among the best prepared interviewers in broadcast news. It was the edge that made Tim Russert such an important part of every weekend until he was taken from us all too soon. And because she is so well prepared (not to mention sharp), she can win the argument more often than not. So most of her critics steer very clear of her studio.
And there’s one thing more. Pundits like Bill O’Reilly, David Brooks and, to a lesser extent, Arianna Huffington think this is all a big game. They get paid every week no matter what they pump out. They know half of the things they say are merely part of a spectacular act. And they know that people like Ms. Maddow are quite the opposite. The only argument they can hope to win with her is the cynical argument — the one in which nothing really matters because nobody really cares anyway and it’s an easy paycheck for so many, why not for them, too? But that argument can’t be revealed on the airwaves, so you will never see the Brooks’ of the world arguing with Rachel Maddow on her show. Maybe with Bill Maher…maybe…but not in a setting that is taken as real news. Never.
Pundits that can’t stand up to real scrutiny must not be saying much of any real value. Those people aren’t just bad pundits, they aren’t really anything like real journalists at all. Rachel Maddow welcomes scrutiny and engages with her detractors whenever possible. And that makes her a real journalist. Sticking to the facts, being well prepared and accepting new information that has the potential to upend her narrative is what makes her a good journalist. We need more Rachel Maddows, of all political stripes.