About a year ago, I wrote about the need for a Black woman weekday host on our cable networks. Many very qualified Black women were being overlooked even though it was becoming clearer and clearer that Black women were, and have always been, a force in American politics and society. In addition to fighting for the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century, Black women were also fighting alongside suffragettes. In addition to fighting alongside Black men for Civil Rights in the twentieth century, they were also fighting for women’s rights.
At the time I wrote the piece, though there were a number of Black women’s faces on TV screens on cable news throughout each day as contributors, guests, and analysts, none besides Harris Faulkner on Fox News hosted her own show. And in the highly valued primetime slots, there were hardly any women at all let alone Black women. This, though there were a number of women in the US House of Representatives and there was a mixed race Black woman of Indigenous African descent in the Senate. Black women overwhelmingly voted against Donald Trump, portending the disaster his presidency would prove to be for those who cared about preserving the democratic ideals of America.
Further, we are in a world of twenty-four hour news cycles, and twenty-four hour social media where Black women drive much of that viewership and traffic. Journalism was truly remiss to not have any Black women or other women of color in the host’s chair at a cable news outlet.
Joy Reid, host of the weekend show at MSNBC AMJoy remarked, when asked about the situation in an interview for a previous article, “I don’t think decision makers generally think about this at all. They live in a world that is just other white people and so they end up hiring those around them. The networks that keep industries, not just media but in general, doesn’t start in HR. It starts in college or high school or even prep school so if you don’t get access then, you have to break in later on and that is difficult.”
Then in late May 2020, the brutal truth of American racism, revealed in roughly 926 seconds of video, shook all but the most racist of white institutions into seeing the people around them they were blithely unaware of or intentionally ignored before.
Institutions in multicultural societies the world over had to reckon with the ways in which they enabled and promoted white supremacy; whether through the denial of information, access, opportunity, or both. Many organizations finally did what they should have done years ago; promoted talented Black people in their midst. MSNBC was one of those.
Brooklyn-born, Colorado- raised, and Harvard educated, Reid has been a fixture at MSNBC for the past six years, hosting The Reid Report from 2014 through 2015, then AMJoy on weekend mornings from 2016 through 2020. Reid was also on board to substitute for most of her MSNBC colleagues on a pretty regular basis, no matter the day or the time slot. She has certainly been one of the hardest working women in television for a very long time and now finally, she has the position as host of a cable news network show during primetime. She’s the first Black woman to hold that position.
Reid began her journalism career in earnest in Florida, working on a morning news show. She worked on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign as a press aide. In 2000, she started her political blog The Reid Report and began co-hosting radio show Wake Up South Florida in 2006 to 2007. Reid was editor of the online news publication The Grio from 2004- 2011 and was also a political columnist for The Miami Herald. From 2014 to 2015 Reid brought The Reid Report to TV in the afternoons on MSNBC. The mother of three (two sons and a daughter) made her mark at MSNB with her comprehensive coverage of the Trayvon Martin case, enhanced by her own intimate knowledge of Florida’s social and political landscape. She became an MSNBC national correspondent in 2016 and got her weekend show AM Joy in 2016. Reid was still hosting that show, which has a very loyal fan base and following, when she was tapped for her primetime gig.
Reid, who also teaches at Syracuse University, has written two books: The Man Who Sold America: Trump And The Unraveling of The American Story, Fracture: Barack Obama, The Clintons, and The Racial Divide and co-authored We Are The Change We Seek: Speeches By Barack Obama with E.J. Dionne. She makes numerous appearances round the country for lectures and panels as both guest and moderator.
Debuting July 20, Reids show The ReidOut, started with a bang; Former VP and current presumptive, as of this writing, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as well as Hillary Clinton were guests. Though she didn’t capture number one in the coveted 25-54 demo for cable news, she was the most watched overall. In fact, it set a record for most watched debut in that MSNBC time slot. Of her inaugural outing, Reid has said in a prior interview, “I definitely felt the pressure. But once the interviews were started and the conversation started, then I felt great.”
Reid has a piercing questioning style and does not easily back away when guests offer trite or glib answers when conducting interviews. It’s obvious she does exhaustive, meticulous research.
Here is Reid deftly pushing back as a guest pushes a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton.
In addition to substitute hosting, Reid also guests on other MSNBC shows, providing insightful analysis on the state of the voting public, on individual politicians or candidates for office, and all manner of the political hot topics of the day. Reid provides a three hundred sixty degree view of the political playing field, from working class Blacks to working class whites, critiques of the so-called “chattering class”, to captains of industry, and everything in-between.
Reid is one of a minority (pun not intended) of Black political analysts whose observations, though they incorporate race as a variable, goes far beyond race. It stands as a blueprint for what should be the majority of Black analysts in the media. That is, though an individual analyst may choose to focus only on race, Black analysts should be expected to be well versed in, and encouraged to discuss, a broad range of political issues from a broad range of perspectives.