Inside the Mind of a Talking Head

Friday, May 09, 2008


When news happens, and even when it doesn't, Rachel Maddow is there to discuss it. She has a radio show on Air America and often appears on MSNBC as a sidekick, guest, or panelist. Maddow gives a pundit's-eye-view of Tuesday's primary coverage and discusses the compromises of professional punditry.

Comments [17]

Ally from Southern Oregon

Thanks for the excellent interview. I hope Rachel gets her own show, soon!

May. 18 2008 02:31 AM
Matt from West Lafayette, IN

I was surprised by the complete lack of any analysis in this story. Ms. Maddow does not like to participate in news coverage she cannot control. Better call the NPR News desk this stuff is breaking news!

Ms. Maddow is not just a commentator, she has a very particular axe to grind. (for better or for worse.) Bob and Brooke should have realized this right from the start, they seem so good at recognizing axe grinding when they do not like the politics of their subject. Oh wait. I get the point of On The Media now!

May. 16 2008 03:51 PM
Michael from NYC

Thank you for the terrific interview with Rachel Maddow. Rachel would be a wonderful addition to the MSNBC evening lineup. The David Gregory show is loud, simple, and ridiculously "fast paced." It's bad enough that the candidates usually speak in sound bytes, now we have a cable news show going for the ESPN sports reporters angle.

MSNBC would do well to give Ms. Maddow her own forum.

May. 14 2008 12:03 PM
Toby Gottfried from Santa Ana, CA

"BOB GARFIELD: ... NBC kept Indiana in the too-close-to-call category into the wee hours of the morning. So, as has become its signature, MSNBC rolled out hours and hours of live coverage.
In all, it was a revealing night – revealing, that is, about the mechanics of election night coverage - namely, while wading in a vast vacuum of results, how to fill six hours of air time. Talk, talk, talk."

The introductory comments quoted above illustrate perfectly a huge problem: more air time than material to fill it, combined with an obsession to report election results the instant they become available (lest a competitor do it first).

So, for however many hours, they repeat, ad nauseum, "We don't know who won yet."

They could just as well show coverage of whatever else has happened that day, and provide just as much information about the election.

Besides that, do we really need to know election results so quickly ?

Except for possibly the candidates themselves, there isn't anything anyone can do with the information overnight, so it's fine with me to wait until the next morning to find out. In a close election, the preliminary results may even end up being wrong.

May. 12 2008 04:02 PM
Kelsey Miller from Gloucester, MA

Agreed that On the Media is a thought-provoking and insightful show. But it was interesting that they didn't at least mention - in the interest of non-disclosure - that Nazanin used to produce TRMS. Those of us who are talk radio junkies were sure to make the connection.

Still, an overall great segment on a terrific show!

May. 12 2008 02:02 PM
rhonda winter from San Francisco, California

Thank you so much for your segment highlighting Dr. Maddow. She is the most cogent and insightful political analyst in the U.S. media today. Her radio program is not to be missed.

May. 12 2008 01:59 PM
Bob Maddow from Castro Valley, California

I owe apologies to NPR and the On the Media team for a comment I posted earlier regarding the interview Mr. Garfield did with Rachel Maddow. I particularly want to apologize to Nazanin Rafsanjani for my assumption that she had produced the interview, and to thank her for setting me straight. We are faithful listeners to the show and think that week in and week out it is the best available source of objective and informative commentary on American media, and that Ms. Gladstone and Mr. Garfield are two of the best in the business.

May. 12 2008 12:36 AM
Lorraine MacLeod from Somersworth, New Hampshire

Re: Bernard Abrams' post
Mr. Abrams, may want to look up what the definition of a pundit is. You are mixing up journalists and pundits.. they have different jobs. I like listening to pundits for their opinions.. Giving us their opinion is their JOB. I LOVE listening to Rachel do her JOB.. which is giving me her very learned and brilliant opinion of the the political news.. Your job as a journalist for 50 years was to report the NEWS.. NOT to give an opinion. Don't mix the two jobs up.

May. 11 2008 10:19 PM
Bernard Abrams from Schooley's Mountain, NJ 07870

Rachel Maddow's comments on the election campaign demonstrate why the media are among the problems voters face. From the media undermining the campaign of John Edwards to the self-important attitude she displayed this morning, there is a total failure to understand the campaign is about candidates and issues. It is not about one-upmanship and it is definitely not about those "pundits" and others whose job is to report on the elections. I have worked for 50 years as a journalist for newspapers, magazines and other media, and have neven seen myself as the story. The growing reference by media "personalities" to their own experiences and attitudes doesn't enhance the respect they get from listeners or viewers. Their names have changed: Their function has not.

May. 11 2008 05:32 PM
Martha Garvey from Hoboken

I always admire Maddow's addressing the context and the structure of what she's been asked to comment on, but let's get it straight: it's about the money. Rev. Wright's speeches were cheap and easy to cover, and certainly sound-bitey in the extreme. John McCain's health plan? Definitely not. Even a pundit show needs some visuals to support their stories, and I just don't see these shows making that kind of cash and labor commitment in the near future. I hope Maddow keeps raising this issue, even though it's unlikely to change.

May. 11 2008 05:22 PM
Butch Hill from Athens, OH

This segment made me realize why I despise political-analyst panels so much. As Ms. Maddow demonstrates, there's no lack of intelligence there--but as the short piece of tape also demonstrates--there's a total lack of reflection and manners in the knee-jerk attempts to drown each other out.

May. 11 2008 05:50 AM
Mike Burton from Oakland, CA

I think of the 24 hour news channels as a loud drunken party carrying on in the house next door. I want to cream at them to shut up; I call the cops, but when they show up the cops find the party too much fun and just share in the self indulgent revelry. But then when I catch any of those talking heads on an individual basis they turn out of be insightful and intelligent people who are much more than a voice in a crowd. Rachel Maddow on OTM is a perfect example; somebody who seems to know how annoying the party is, but it’s the only party in town. I even found a grudging respect for Joe Scarborough when I saw him on Bill Maher’s show recently, that is until he couldn’t resist falling into his “Morning Joe” character and purposely looked for ways to offend the audience (like guy who can’t go to even a dinner party without drinking too much and stating a fight with a stranger)(or maybe the heckler in the audience of a comedian he emjoys, but feels the need to take the comedian down a notch). I know these people worked hard to get where they are and they are doing the jobs exactly as they are supposed to, but in the overflowing bash of television news they are just the noise making me put my head between my pillows.

May. 11 2008 05:20 AM
secondwynd from New York

Always refreshing to hear the analysis, insights and opinions of Rachel Maddow. Great piece. Thanks.

May. 11 2008 12:06 AM
Nazanin Rafsanjani from New York, NY

Hi Bob,

I'm so glad you liked the interview with Rachel. I really wish I could take credit for producing it, but unfortunately I can't. It was one of our other producers. All I did was provide Rachel's phone number! But thanks for listening and writing.


May. 10 2008 03:54 PM
Lorraine MacLeod from Somersworth, New Hampshire

Thank you for interviewing of one of the best and brightest political analysts out there. It was especially interesting to hear Rachel discuss what has been going on "in her head" when she is dealing with the other pundits on MSNBC and the frustration of not being able to (yet) direct the discussion and topic selection. Hearing her thougths on the Rev. Wright "eclipse" conundrum (take part in the frenzy... but be the critical voice.. or refuse to take part.. and suffer having no opportunity to criticize) was especially interesting.

Rachel is one of the most honest, and brilliant voices out there for the left. I am sure it is just a matter of time before she will get that TeeVee machine show!

May. 10 2008 12:12 PM
Cheryl Dowden from Los Angeles CA

Thanks for this excellent interview with Rachel Maddow. She makes watching cable news shows worthwhile. Her intelligent and insightful viewpoints are so refreshing.

May. 10 2008 01:59 AM
Bob Maddow from Castro Valley, California

Many thanks to Mr. Garfield for a great interview with Rachel. Insightful and interesting questions. I hope Nazanin Rafsanjani gets the credit for having produced it.

May. 10 2008 12:28 AM

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