Maddow's Success Defies TV's Formula

MSNBC's unlikely hit powered by brains, drive
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2008 12:57 PM CST
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Rachel Maddow is an unlikely cable-news pundit: butch lesbian, holder of a doctorate from Oxford, erstwhile drive-time radio sidekick. But her MSNBC show, launched in September, has been wildly successful, not least because of her good humor and outsider credentials. She plays well with Pat Buchanan, and still snags a critical young demographic, Jessica Pressler writes in a New York feature.

“Being paid to talk? It’s like being paid to eat,” Maddow says of broadcasting. Though many were sure she’d enter academia, it was not to be. “Deep down, Rachel knows that this is something she has to do,” said rapper Chuck D, a former Air America colleague. And Maddow—who says she has never seen Larry King, Hannity & Colmes, or The O'Reilly Factor, and didn't own a TV until lately—displays an impressive amount of TV acumen. “If I’m wearing a gray suit,” she said, “people aren’t going to talk about what I’m wearing.”