Eliana Johnson's article "Rachel's Show" in Monday's National Review Online contends that Rachel Maddow has become the behind-the-scenes power at MSNBC. Johnson cites multiple insider sources who insist that Maddow, rather than Phil Griffin, is the true source of editorial direction at MSNBC, holding "considerable sway over personnel decisions." In fact, one source even points to Maddow as the reason both Bashir and Baldwin were released.
“I know I’m never going to get freakin’ talking points from Phil,” Maddow told The New Yorker last year. “Can you imagine? Like, what would they be?”
Johnson emphasizes the difference between Maddow's imperial persona and many of the more "wonkish" faces at MSNBC, like Ezra Klein and Melissa Harris-Perry:
Behind her back, colleagues call her “the queen,” a not so subtle suggestion that Maddow gets what Maddow wants. And what she wants is a network filled with young wonks such as Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, Alex Wagner, and Harris-Perry, whose highbrow intellectualism can, she hopes, push the Democratic party, and the country, to the left. On Twitter, Harris-Perry’s show proudly uses the hashtag #nerdland. Alex Wagner’s move to the 4 p.m. hour, where Bashir’s show once aired, has Maddow’s fingerprints on it.
According to the piece, those who are not in Maddow's "inner circle" are vulnerable. Johnson highlights a quote from a "television insider" who maintains that the reason Martin Bashir and Alex Baldwin were fired was they weren't in good favor with Maddow.
“Alec Baldwin and Martin were outliers; they weren’t part of her inner circle,” says a television insider. “Bashir’s contract was up, he was twisting in the wind when this happened, and he was out of sync with Rachel’s ideology.”
Conversely, Johnson claims that Maddow's support of Chris Hayes is the only thing keeping him on air.
According to Johnson, the problem with "Queen" Maddow's increasing editorial influence is that it's only helping drive away the desirable demographics for advertising dollars:
MSNBC’s wonks, nonetheless, are seeing weak ratings because the cable-television audience does not mirror the American, or Democratic, electorate. It’s older: A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 57 percent of Maddow’s audience is past 50, compared with 43 percent of all Americans. It’s also slightly less educated: According to the same study, 26 percent of MSNBC viewers have a college degree, compared with 29 percent of all Americans. Of course, the numbers can be parsed in many ways, but it’s difficult to imagine there’s a large appetite among MSNBC’s core audience for the graduate-level punditry served up by Maddow’s protégés. Nielsen data — which showed the network last year posting its lowest prime-time ratings since 2007 both in the coveted 25–54 demographic and in total viewers — reflect that mismatch.