MSNBC said Thursday it would give Joy Reid the 7 p.m. slot that had been anchored for years by departed journalist Chris Matthews, handing the important task of assembling early-evening weekday audiences for its primetime schedule to a Black woman – still a rarity in the cable-news business in 2020.
Her program will be called “The ReidOut,” and will be based in Washington, D.C., starting on July 20. Reid’s new role has been widely expected since The Wall Street Journal reported last month she was in consideration.
MSNBC doesn’t appear to be changing the nature of the hour, which has for years been filled by Matthews’ “Hardball,” an hour devoted to the politics of the day. Matthews, a former political speechwriter and one-time aide to former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, was immersed in Beltway rhythms. He retired from his program abruptly in March, coming under scrutiny for remarks made on air about U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and after a female journalist alleged he spoke to her in an inappropriate way.
But Reid has always offered an unapologetically partisan program. Her Sunday show, “A.M. Joy,” part of MSNBC since 2016, analyzes the issues of the day with the same progressive lens as the network’s ‘s primetime hosts Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell. Reid has in recent years been one of the main fill-ins for those anchors. She has held that even right-leaning viewers can tune in to see her work from a common set of facts to put the news cycle in context. “We do have some conservatives who watch the show,” she told Variety in 2017. “Some hate-watch. Some watch it on purpose. We have a lot of Republicans who are on the show, part of them are Never Trumpers and neocon Never Trumpers. In an ideal world, people would take the opposite position and work from a common fact base and draw their own conclusions.”
Some of the most important broadcast-network news shows are anchored or co-anchored by Black journalists, including the nation’s three biggest morning-news programs as well as “NBC Nightly News.” But cable-news’ track record on diversity is less distinctive. Only CNN features a person of color in weekday primetime. Fox News Channel, meanwhile, has given increasing attention to Harris Faulkner in daytime since she took on duties on “Outnumbered” in 2014, adding a solo hour to her daily routine.
Chris Matthews left “Hardball” carrying baggage. Reid arrives in the timeslot with some in tow. In 2018, some of her posts on an old blog she managed earlier in her career surfaced anew. Some of them contained homophobic remarks, and another one contained a photoshopped image of former Senator John McCain depicted as the instigator of a mass-shooting incident. Reid has apologized several times for the controversial comments, but also maintained she did not recall writing them and even suggested that the old web pages had been manipulated by hackers – a claim that remains unproven.
“What I genuinely believe is that I truly care about the L.G.B.T. people in my own life,” Reid told The New York Times in a report Thursday. “I care about being a good ally, a good person, and making sure that my voice is authentic, that I can make a difference.”
Reid first arrived at MSNBC as an afternoon anchor, part of a move to extend the progressive leanings of primetime to other parts of the schedule. But MSNBC pulled back on that maneuver after Andy Lack arrived in 2015, and shows led by Reid and Ronan Farrow were scuttled in favor of a hard-news presentation. These days, MSNBC’s schedule is sandwiched between the political analysis of “Morning Joe” and the primetime lineup, with morning and early-afternoon programs that burnish the journalism of NBC News giving way in mid-afternoon to more analysis and stronger remarks from Nicolle Wallace and others.
She has worked her way up in the business, starting out in Florida as a radio host and blogger and then moving over time to become managing editor of The Grio. Since launching “A.M. Joy,” however, Reid has become an integral part of MSNBC’s brand and identity. She will likely have a greater hand in that in her new role.