The network has maintained its spot as the No. 1 most-watched cable network among African American viewers for 25 consecutive months
As Black History Month comes to a close, MSNBC has continued its streak as the No. 1 most-watched cable network among Black Americans in February, a title the network has maintained for 25 consecutive months and that “The Saturday Show” and “The Sunday Show” host Jonathan Capehart attributed to the network’s diverse on-air voices and inclusive reporting.
“Black viewers can see themselves reflected back at them not just in the anchor chair when it comes to, me, Joy Reid, Reverend Al [Sharpton], Symone [Sanders-Townsend] or any of the other African American anchors, but also other anchors of color at the network,” Capehart told TheWrap. “The network covers the stories that are important to the American people at large, but stories that are of particular interest to the African American community.”
While Capehart asserted “there’s no issue that’s in the news, or that is an import to the American people that doesn’t touch the African American community,” MSNBC has put a premium on covering key topics, including voting rights, police reform, the economy and health care, “not just in the abstract, but in ways where the audience feels a connection to the story that’s been told,” by, for example, inviting a slate of diverse guests to speak about everything from the war in Ukraine to the debt ceiling.
On top of leading Black viewership among cable networks with 173,000 Black viewers on average in February — ahead of CNN’s 105,000 Black viewers and Fox News Channel’s 24,000 total viewers on average — MSNBC is also the home of the 10 highest-rated cable news programs among Black Americans, with “The Rachel Maddow Show” ranking as No. 6, “The ReidOut” coming in as No. 7, “The Beat with Ari Melber” taking No. 8 and “All In With Chris Hayes” grabbing ninth place. “Morning Joe” also ranked as the No. 1 cable program in its time slot among Black viewers.
Approaching his reporting with the goal of providing context to complex political moments, Capehart, who recently expanded his MSNBC show to air on both Saturdays and Sundays at 9 a.m., reflected on covering the 2022 Georgia runoff election by answering burning questions for voters, including why the lines were so long, why the state legislature has moved so quickly to change the voting law and what might be the direct impact of the runoff.
“This story is one that has a particular importance to African Americans, because that was the goal of the bill, now law, to limit their access to the ballot box, but it also was a bigger story about assault on democracy [and] assaults on the right to vote,” Capehart said.
As a gay, married Black man, Capehart feels an “innate” sense of duty to shine light on these issues as he admitted “you can’t help but personalize the stories that are being talked about in the nation.”
“I feel duty-bound that… I’m the one at the table, who can say, by and large to a table that is overwhelmingly white, ‘Here’s what’s happening. This is why African Americans are reacting this way. This is why this is important,’ or let me [show] you how this particular thing lands on the African American community, how it sounds to their ears,” he said.
As many viewers look for someone to explain things in a way they can understand it, Capehart shares that he has often been a “sherpa” for issues related to the Black or gay community, recalling the poignant response to his opinion column following the killing of Trayvon Martin, in which he discussed the burden of carrying the weight of other people’s suspicions as a Black man in America and detailed the talk parents must give their Black children.
“People gravitate to journalists they can trust — journalists who don’t talk down to them, but really work hard to bring them bring them along, to help to give them the ammunition they might need at the dinner table at Thanksgiving with their incorrigible relative,” Capehart said. “People need to open their minds to complexity, if only to make themselves better citizens.”
Loree joined TheWrap as a reporter in 2022 after interning at the publication during the summer of 2021. Loree has covered entertainment, film and television for TheWrap and has reported on the media industry and the cable news beat. She has also written for MovieMaker Magazine, where she interned in 2020.