News organizations have been babbling about “diversity” since before the flood, but if you want to see two “diverse” journalists being taken seriously at the same time, you have tune in to rare venues like MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes.”
For two hours every Saturday and Sunday morning, Hayes and his experts-of-the-week drink coffee and dig deep into issues that demand extended attention, but rarely get it in today’s attention-deficit disordered media-verse.
Saturday’s show featured the Miami Herald’s Joy-Ann Reid and the Tampa Bay Times’ Tia Mitchell. These young, gifted and black women joined two academics with stellar credentials and unpronouceable names for a lengthy, thoughtful, and nuanced discussion of Florida governor Rick Scott’s stunning 180 on “Obamacare.”
“Up” is appointment viewing for news junkies who like their information delivered by people who know what they’re talking about and aren’t angling for a better-paying job in public relations.
At age 32, Hayes is an accomplished newsman, at ease in print, on camera, and on-line. His reporting Rolodex is a rainbow coalition of journalists and scholars you have never heard of. But you can tell, almost from the moment they open their mouths, that they know their stuff and are exceptionally skilled at explaining it.
Hayes avoids the gasbags, dial-a-quotes, hyper-ventilators and flacks who have been around since the mid-20th century and haven’t had a new idea since 1990. He asks open-ended questions and allows guests time to think and breathe.
Most refreshingly of all, Hayes resists the urge to “weigh-in” before he has assembled some weight-bearing facts. When CIA Director David Petraeus confessed to an affair with his biographer and resigned on a Friday last November, many of the great minds and great egos of journalism cancelled their weekend plans to tweet, blog and pontificate about What It Means.
Hayes, by contrast, spent his weekend broadcasts serving up vegetables in the form of substantive conversation about “ the makeup of the new Congress, both politically and demographically…the stand-off between President Obama and House Republicans over the “fiscal cliff,” [and the] failure of Karl Rove and other big-money Republican operatives to sway voters.”
As he closed his Sunday show, Hayes finally got around to mentioning Petraeus, telling viewers, “….that since Andrea Mitchell broke the story on Petraeus` resignation Friday on MSNBC, additional details have come to light about Petraeus` affair with [Paula] Broadwell. You should know that we had a long, spirited editorial meeting yesterday about whether to discuss the Petraeus story on our air today. Because important details are still to be resolved about this story, we decided not to…..”
Time will tell if Hayes is inventing a sustainable business model for smart, inclusive journalism. For democracy’s sake, let’s hope so.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo credit: The Common Good)