MSNBC Rising


Andy Marquis, reporter for, is our guest blogger of the day. He used to consider himself a Republican but not any more.  He changed his voter registration to Independent in 2011 and says that’s how it will remain.

Here's his latest guest post. I don't agree with everything he said here, such as equating Rachel Maddow with Bill O'Reilly (she relies on facts and is civil and fair to her guests, for example, so apples/oranges), nor do I think for a minute that MSNBC is a liberal network. But just as Current does, it gets kudos for hiring progressives to host their own shows, and that is a vast improvement over other cable stations (bolding mine):

MSNBC Rising

In the past few years, there’s been a shift in the direction NBC’s cable news network, MSNBC, has taken.  For one, the network has built an identity which has been missing for years.  As a result of the decision to become the anti-FOX, MSNBC’s become more progressive… and their ratings have progressively increased.  It’s symbolic of a demographic and ideological shift going on in the United States.

“During the first week post-election, MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9 p.m. ET and “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10 p.m. ET were both #1 in the A25-54 demo, topping both Fox News Channel and CNN,” a press release from MSNBC stated. “For the week of November 12-16, Maddow was #1 with 480,000 A25-54 while FNC’s “Hannity” was second with 439,000 A25-54 and CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” placed third with 181,000 A25-54. “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10 p.m. had 396,000 A25-54. FNC’s “On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren” was second with 362,000 A25-54 and CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” was third with 178,000 A25-54.”

MSNBC’s rise has been building up for some time.  For much of its time on air, MSNBC existed as a back marker, even with innovative programs like A Region in Conflict on its air.  It was in 2003, during the Iraq war, that MSNBC began phasing in a new nightly news broadcast that would become the hallmark of its lineup, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”.  A couple years later, after the failures following Hurricane Katrina, Olbermann orated an on-air essay, “The City of Louisiana”.  Olbermann became more outspoken against the Bush Administration and his show quickly took a left turn and, as it did so, his ratings increased.  The writing was on the wall.

MSNBC progressively began its transformation in to the progressive network it currently is, hiring people like Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz (who would later replace Olbermann), Lawrence O’Donnell, Reverend Al Sharpton and Alex Wagner.  They changed their morning strategy, after Don Imus was fired for racially insensitive remarks made towards the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team.  With that came the birth of Morning Joe which has become one of the most influential programs in American public policy.

With a new slogan that debuted in 2010 (“Lean Forward”), a new weekend strategy and a new dayside strategy, MSNBC’s transformation was complete.

That takes us to last week, and several other weeks prior to that.  MSNBC has had victories over FOX News Channel in terms of ratings but they’ve been few and far. There’s been no denial, FOX is the heavyweight and nobody can top them.  However, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz are doing just that, and it speaks volumes about the changing demographics.

Maddow and O’Donnell won the Age 25-54 demographic, or as networks refer to it, “the money demo” but still were behind in overall numbers.  FOX’s ratings and the sudden relegation of Hannity and Van Sustren almost look like the Republican Party’s relegated status in American politics.  FOX’s audience appears to be genuinely older than MSNBC’s audience.  FOX appears to have a problem bringing in a new generation of viewers, kind of like the Republican Party has a problem bringing in a new generation of voters.

See, MSNBC and FOX both speak ideologically to certain sides of the American electorate.  Rachel Maddow has quickly become to liberals what Bill O’Reilly is to conservatives.  MSNBC eloquently defines the progressive talking points just as FOX defines the conservative talking points.

There are fundamental differences though – differences that favor MSNBC.  Shows like “NOW with Alex Wagner” and “The Cycle” are younger, give a voice to both sides in a way shows like “The Five” and “America Live” try to but don’t achieve.  Perhaps the viewers are tired of one side being shouted down (as is the case on “The Five”) in the same way as the voters are tired of the lack of civility in Washington, DC.

The rise of MSNBC represents a seismic shift in American television news, and it should not be ignored.