A Golden Age for Progressive Media?

30 years after the contamination of our public airwaves via the national syndication of Rush Limbaugh’s radio program–and five years after the unfortunate demise of Al Gore’s Current TV–it’s good to see some progress in the fight to ensure that the non-wingnut perspective has a solid platform in American media. Last year, the New York Times observed that the success of the Pod Save America podcast represented a forward march for progressive media. Looks like that march is continuing:

[HBO] has signed a deal with the hosts of the popular “Pod Save America” podcast to broadcast a series of hourlong TV specials later this year.

The move comes just a week after HBO debuted the first of four specials from Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, the hosts of the “2 Dope Queens” podcast. That special, which included an interview with Jon Stewart, received warm reviews.

“Pod Save America,” a podcast hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor, all veterans of the Obama White House, has become a sort of refuge to liberal Americans during the beginning of the Trump era.

During the 2016 campaign, the hosts produced a podcast for Bill Simmons’s website, The Ringer, called “Keepin’ It 1600,” which was supposed to end once the election was over. But given the popularity of it, the three began a new production. In keeping with how Donald J. Trump’s victory has upended much of the media world — Stephen Colbert is the most-watched host in late night, MSNBC has seen a huge ratings surge — “Pod Save America” averages around 1.5 million listeners a show. HBO made the deal with Crooked Media, the media company founded by Mr. Favreau, Mr. Lovett and Mr. Vietor.

HBO plans to have the hosts do their specials on the campaign trail in the run up to the 2018 midterm elections.

Speaking of progressive media figures who will influence the 2018 midterm elections, good on the New York Times for recognizing Joy Reid’s rise on MSNBC, and the power of her voice in pushing back against the prejudice pumping out of Pennsylvania Avenue:

In the Trump era, Ms. Reid, the daughter of immigrants, has emerged as a heroine of the resistance to his leadership. And her forceful questioning style, matching that on conservative outlets like Fox, has resonated with MSNBC’s viewers. She is popular on social media with fans who fondly call themselves #reiders. Her morning show on Saturday averages nearly 1 million weekly viewers and, for the last four months, she has bested MSNBC’s competitor CNN, according to Nielsen, which tracks television ratings (granted, her competition then is general newsroom updates rather than another headline personality).

“Our prime directive is to constantly remind people that this is not normal and not to allow it to become mundane,” Ms. Reid said in a recent interview at MSNBC’s studios in Midtown Manhattan, referring to the architecture of the Trump presidency. Each week she makes sure to discuss the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “We feel like one of our duties is to keep that story top of mind because it’s fundamentally about whether we truly choose our own leaders,” she said.

Ever notice the level of, shall we say, fire and fury with which right-wingers go after Reid? Underneath their fury is a fear–a fear that Reid and fellow rising progressive media voices may have as much influence on a future Democratic president as right-wing media talking heads have had on Donald Trump. A Democratic president who paid critical attention to, and fought hard to make progress on, the issues Reid, Favreau, Lovett, Pfeiffer and Vietor have highlighted would give a migraine to the #MAGA crowd.

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes understood that media influence is political influence. Heck, Donald Trump understood that media influence is political influence. When right-wingers lash out at Reid and the hosts of Pod Save America, they’re really saying: Damn it, the left may well beat us at our own game.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.