It’s been a tumultuous couple of months for MSNBC, who have dealt with several high profile controversies involving on-air talent. Last November, the channel gave Alec Baldwin‘s “Up Late” the boot following outrage over anti-gay comments he made to a paparazzo, host Martin Bashir resigned in December after he made inflammatory comments about Sarah Palin and Melissa Harris-Perry apologized to Mitt Romney in January after she joked about the former Massachusetts Governor’s black grandson.
MSNBC hopes to turn the page with the launch of two new shows on Monday. While it’s uncertain what direction Ronan Farrow will take with his program, cable news observers are very optimistic about Joy Reid, whose cerebral, mellow demeanor has won her praise from friends and critics.
Reid’s amicable, chill as a cucumber on-air persona offers a stark departure from many of the fiery, hot-headed pundits of years past and pledges to provide a down-to-earth news program where viewers can both the “what” and the “why” of the day’s news. Reid also assures skeptics that she’ll invite on guests with ideological diversity.
“I think we have to have Republicans at the table,” Reid tells TheWrap. “It’s an open invitation, we’re inviting conservatives on the show.”
She also plans on making “access to voting” a pet issue for her show.
“I’m a policy wonk but we also have to be cognizant about what’s going on during the day,” Reid said. “That is our responsibility at 2 p.m. — we have to tell people on the street what’s going on.”
Reid — who has heretofore frequently guest hosted many MSNBC shows — has had a long road to where she is today at the network. “Adding Joy to our daytime lineup was a no brainer,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin said. “She’s engaging, she’s smart, she is going to bring a new perspective to the network. Joy has been a regular on MSNBC for years, is beloved by our audience, and it just makes sense that she now has her own show.”
“I don’t think television has a Joy Reid,” says TheGrio’s David Wilson, who is a colleague and friend told TheWrap. “There’s no woman like her on television — shes a black woman, who’s a dark skin black woman and seeing that image represented on cable news means a lot to African Americans. It’s the Michelle Obama effect! I call her the Oprah of politics, there are few people as smart as she is.”
Reid graduated from Harvard University in 1991 where she majored in visual arts and later moved to Florida where she launched her news career. She worked as a web news editor at WTVJ in Miami, hosted a talk radio show for Radio One and wrote a political column for the The Miami Herald.
Reid was inspired to make news a career trajectory after being glued to the television set as a kid during the Iran hostage crisis. She cites Ted Koppel as an inspiration for her news obsession.
“I recently met Ted Koppel and was in awe!” Reid reveals.
Reid’s big break came when she met Wilson in 2011, the founder of TheGrio, a news site aimed at an African-American audience. Wilson hired her as the managing editor of the site and the platform helped her land frequent appearances on MSNBC.
“Yvette Miley recommended that I [meet] her and I flew up to New York to interview her for the site. I think the thing that made her really pop was Trayvon — it was interesting, one of our reporters injured himself, but we sent Joy, because she was our senior staffer with a Florida background and so she ended up being on NBC Nightly News and a fixture on MSNBC — that was the beginnng of her momentum.”
Viewers might be surprised that despite her calm, cool and collected attitude on the air, Reid has a hectic schedule behind the scenes. She’s a working mother with three kids — a quality that Wilson believes helped elevate her savvy of the Trayvon Martin case.
“She was made to cover that story,” Wilson explains. “It was involving a black teenager — she could relate as a mother — there was no one who covered that story better than she did and from that moment she got national exposure.”
How will she be able to go from commentary to news?
“She can pivot,” Wilson reveals. “I dont know how she does it — she stays extremely well read on everything — she has this understanding of politics that few people have and she’s extremely humble and just a fun person. She can be wonkish, shes very diverse, you’ll see that on her show and I imagine you’ll see alot of that She has a gift worth celebrating, I think what makes her unique is you have a woman who’s also breaking the mold of what you see on television. She is very authentic — she has the quality of being the woman next door. I think that is very important.”
How will Reid avoid running into controversy that’s engulfed other cable news pundits?
“Joy is not nasty,” Wilson says. “Even when shes delivering something scathing — she does it with a pleasant disposition and that is part of her magic, shes smiling while she says it — wow, did she just cut him? She has the ability to not be angry.”