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Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz - How MSNBC Became a Liberal Mecca

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“Look, Fox created something unique,” he allows. “It’s an Outsider’s Club for people who felt voiceless. And I tip my hat to Glenn Beck for coming in and just killing right away, as did Rachel. But Ed will need more time and more traditional development than Rachel. It will be a slower build, and we’re still trying to figure it out.

“What happened with Rachel was very unusual,” recalls Griffin. “She was golden, an unbelievable success, in part because there clearly was another audience that felt underserved — left, webcentric, young — and instantly committed to her. They were voiceless, and now there is a voice. She really embodies our strategy of ‘personality, smarts, and politics,’ and that’s a combination will win for us.”

Schultz agrees. “I’m proud to be on this network,” he says. “And sure, there has to be a synergy in your programming, whether you’re on television or radio. If you’re a rock station, don’t play country! If you do talk, don’t play music… That’s just common sense. So we’ll be progressive by remaining true to the issues, and independent by not running from the facts. That means we won’t be in lockstep with liberals, and we’ll certainly criticize Obama where it’s warranted. Viewers don’t want you to walk the fence — they do want a point of view — and that’s what we bring. So be true to the facts — but take a stand!”

Despite the gains going left has won for MSNBC, however, Schultz’ boss maintains he still won’t rush into anything wont rush the transition. “The biggest mistake this network made in past was rushing in, and thinking any good idea would work,” says Griffin. ” We had lots of good talent in the past — but what we needed was a sensibility.”

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Now that Schultz has been added to the lineup at 6 pm, Griffin’s most immediate concern is what else to do in primetime, where the valuable ten o’clock slot following Maddow’s program is now devoted to re-runs of Olbermann’s earlier 8 pm cablecast. Can the MSNBC honcho offer any “vision” of what will “flow” out of Maddow?

“Is it necessary that the flow out of Rachel be progressive?” Griffin ponders. “I have a little different perspective. Honestly, don’t know if it will be a progressive — Rachel really came out of nowhere, and I don’t necessarily think her follow-up host has to be limited to that pure sensibility. Clearly it should be someone who is both smart and funny like she is… But I will make one promise: we’re not done yet! This is such a vibrant time in media, and I want to say to Rachel’s audience – and everywhere I go I get stopped, there’s such a connection between her and her audience, she’s helped open a new world of approaches for us — that people who like Rachel will like our new 10 o’clock show host and what we are going to do there. No, I take that back,” he concludes. “Rachel’s audience will LOVE IT! I promise.”

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Filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor writes the 'Media Is A Plural' blog, accessible at www.roryoconnor.org.

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