Interview: Rachel Maddow Discusses Her New MSNBC Television Show With ThinkProgress

MSNBC recently announced that liberal Air America radio host Rachel Maddow will get her own television show. We interviewed Maddow in St. Paul yesterday to discuss how the show came about and what she hopes to accomplish with it:

What’s the mission of the show going to be?

The mission of the show is…it seems kinda obvious, which is that, in the eastern time zone, Keith Olbermann is on at 8 and then Keith Olbermann is on at 10. It’s repeated. And there’s an hour in between. And Keith has very high ratings. … The idea is, in between two hours of Keith, what can we do to hold on to as many of those viewers as possible and even to attract new ones. And they think I’m the person to do that. So that’s the mission — keep Keith’s numbers.

The strategic approach we are taking…is figure out a way to do television that allows you to be yourself — that allows your personality to come forward. … If I’m competing on any other grounds other than my personality and my quirks and my take on things, I’m not going to win.

Are you going to be the left’s version of Fox News?

I know very little about media. I don’t have a television. I have never watched more than three consecutive minutes of Fox News ever, ever. I’ve never even seen a single segment of a single Fox News program. So I don’t know all that much about what they do. […]

I know that what MSNBC wants from me is for me to be myself, to be open about where I’m coming from, and to be entertaining and to have integrity. … So if people look at me…and they say ‘wow, she’s like O’Reilly but with even less hair,’ then you know, fine. Ok whatever. Other people’s opinion of what I do is less important to me than me feeling like it’s something I’m proud of and having fun doing.

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More from the interview:

How did your show come about?

It’s a little bit of a mystery to me. … I don’t really know why they decided to give me this show. … In terms of why they like me? I don’t know. […]

Ultimately this January in this primary season, MSNBC called and decided they wanted me to stop going on CNN place. And that meant that they asked me to do an exclusive contributor deal with them and then they started talking to me about TV.

How have blogs helped you do what you do?

Bloggers are aggregators of information, they are opinion columnists, and they are occasionally reporters. And that’s what you need in terms of putting together a television show or a radio show — left, right, or center. […]

It’s not the New York Times opinion page. It’s not the Wall Street Journal opinion page, where people end up there for Lord knows what reason. It is in the blog world, you’re going to get more attention, you’re going to get more clicks, you’re going to rise to prominence if what you’re writing is provocative, interesting, or accurate. … So the fact that the blog world is very meritocratic is very helpful.

“I am a big fan of ThinkProgress,” Maddow told us. “Thank you for having me. I feel like I’ve hit the big time.”

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