Rachel Maddow at the TCA Winter Press Tour


Maddow with MSNBC Pres. Phil Griffin at the TCA press tour

Out political talk show host Rachel Maddow was on an MSNBC panel at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour last week, fielding questions about her show, what she’s learned since it launched, and what this inauguration day means to her. AfterElton.com‘s Michael Jensen reported back to us, and we’ve excerpted some of the most interesting portions for you.

First, MSNBC President Phil Griffin responded to questions about the origin of The Rachel Maddow Show.

"We made a decision right prior to the conventions to
take a little bit of a risk," said Griffin. "Rachel had been filling
in for Olbermann that summer [which was] the first
time she ever read a teleprompter … Nobody had kept
Keith’s numbers when Keith took a day off, because
that show is so uniquely Keith. But Rachel did. And
after we saw that, it was pretty clear that Rachel
would get an audience after Keith."

So, Griffin said, "we put in Rachel after the conventions, and
everything changed."

For the first time in MSNBC
history, we had a show that was getting big numbers at
9 o’clock. We had a show that was beating, for the
first time in 12 and a half years, Larry King. It
sort of built the whole network, made it feel bigger.
Chris Matthews, Keith, Rachel were all starting to
beat CNN in primetime.

We had a
terrific election, and since then we’ve continued to
beat CNN. This has been an extraordinary time for
MSNBC. Rachel’s been a critical piece to it. She’s
not only one of the hardest-working people I know.
She’s not only one of the smartest, but she’s
certainly one of the most delightful and one of the
best on TV.

Maddow called her show "a very fun trip up a very
steep learning curve …
really hard work, and … the best job I’ve ever had
by a mile."

When asked to elaborate on what she’s learned since jumping to TV, Maddow cited the visual cues on the show (maps,
graphics, B-roll, videotape etc.) as an example of a skill she’s still trying to master:

Because I
come from a radio place, I’m not cued into the idea
that I need to be thinking about what else we are
broadcasting besides my voice when I’m reading script
that I have written. And so I’m not, every day, at a
point — I haven’t mastered my time management and my
delegation skills well enough so that I’ve got
something to do with everything that we’re doing
visually every day. And I’ve just got to figure out a
way to organize myself better so that I can feel
confident that that all reflects my editorial vision
as — as much as my script does.

Griffin, who noted "it’s always a little scary when you get
a huge audience on day one," believes Maddow is successful despite learning on the job because she "has a natural sense of communication. And it’s
not TV skills. It’s communication skills, and she’s
got it."

Griffin deflected a question about whether Maddow "has put a more likeable face on
progressivism," or whether it was just the right time for a progressive face to emerge, but expanded on Maddow’s talents:

I think
her strength is that she takes all this stuff very
seriously, and yet she doesn’t take herself seriously.
I mean — and I think that’s her strength. You know,
she is so smart, but she enjoys it. She’s the only
person I know on any news program that will say “dork”
and “Obama” in the same sentence and pull it off and
still be the smartest person talking on TV. I just
think that she has a delightful way. I think it’s a
little bit different. I think she’s a fresh voice.

You know, I know that she doesn’t come out of this
mix, especially television, and I think that has given
her sort of a fresh take. She — she comes as she is.
She’s organic to who she is, and I really believe that
that’s her success.

But what’s going to happen to The Rachel Maddow Show, one reporter wondered, "without the Bush Administration to kick around? And
specifically, he wanted to know, what’s going to happen with the
quack-itude segment?"

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