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Journalism selectors, pages, etc.
An ode to a great journalist
By Ponderer
December 28, 2023 6:48 am
Category: Journalism

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Came across this in my news feed. I'd have to say that Firestone is right on the nose. Not that some in here will understand the truth of it... (This is the way the text was formatted)

"I wrote this piece two years ago. You may not agree, and that's your right, but... I've been around the news and reporting business...almost all my life. And I think she's the best I ever saw - and maybe ever WILL see..." - Roy Alan Firestone

I've been in the broadcasting business for most of my adult life.
I've had the good fortune to work with some top-notch broadcasters, network anchors, and some really smart people.
And though this is just my opinion, I believe my opinion is significant here, because I've seen a lot of great talents in broadcasting and I know some of the "tricks" of the trade, and how "talent" can be made to look more authoritative, and more impressive than he or she really is.
There's a lot of smoke and mirrors in the news business, and sometimes broadcasters are part image, part fraud.
Not this "talent".
I've never seen a "talent" in the broadcasting business like Rachel Maddow.
On Thursday night, thanks to my friend Brian Zeitchick, I was a visiting guest on the set of "The Rachel Maddow Show."
I've written about Rachel here before, but I had never met Rachel until this night.
First, a few curious things about the set.
There are no camera operators.
All cameras are robotic.
There was only a floor director and no other staff or crew are anywhere.
Rachel IS virtually the only one in the room.
It is as quiet as a library, or a morgue.
The tone on the set is deliberate, and serious and solemn.
She arrives on crutches(she recently tore an ankle tendon in an awkward step on a curb) literally less a minute before air.
She puts the crutches down , climbs on to the set, adjusts her microphone and does NOT look into a mirror to see how she looks.
She is one of the most un-self conscious people I've ever seen on an anchor set.
She is not into cosmetics.
She leans in and begins.
For the next 24 straight minutes, with very few visuals and graphics, Rachel Maddow tells a complicated story about the widespread corruption at FEMA, which led to a Trump nominee's resignation.
The rest of the show is filled with breaking news, another potential Trump scandal and other developing stories that are incredibly complicated and fast evolving.
There is literally no time for her to "fake it", because the stories she is reporting on are coming to her at warp speed and she's trying to process the information, and ready herself for the next segment almost flying blind.
When she goes to commercial breaks, there is no small talk with crew members about the weekend football games or some inside joke.
Nope, Rachel Maddow is furiously typing on her keyboard.
Her three-minute commercial break isn't for chit chat or even a sip of water.
There's no sitting on the stool between rounds, like some fighter taking a breather in a prizefight.
Its more time for Rachel to write detailed scripts and get incoming information and she continues to hammer that keyboard until there are just seconds left coming out of the commercial.
Rachel Maddow is in total command of the material, she is flawless in her reporting, storytelling, contextualizing and interviewing.
It's an amazing thing to watch.
In my career, I've mostly been around great newsreaders and play by play broadcasters.
I can never remember a more dexterous and quicker thinking and reacting broadcaster than this woman.
The show is over and I see her coming towards me.
She is nearly 6 feet tall and wears jeans and high top sneakers under her traditional black jacket and black tee-shirt nightly garb.
She wears the same "uniform" every single night.
She greets me warmly and authentically.
'You're Roy Firestone, from ESPN, right"
I said, "Yep, but not recently."
I said, "You're a Red Sox and Patriots fan aren't you, Rachel?"
She said "Yes, is that okay ? She laughed.
Rachel Maddow had a cold, and an aching ankle and was leaning on crutches, but for at least 10 minutes she cheerfully, authentically, and warmly talked about the career she never even anticipated having on TV for the last 11 years.
"I wanted to be an activist. I wanted to be part of causes important to me,and I never thought I would end up doing this."
I told her she WAS an activist in the way she reported, the way she steered people through a story.
She doesn't truly advocate, but she does activate people to understand what is happening in American politics, and the planet.
'Rachel ", I said, "Not Walter Cronkite. Not Edward R. Murrow. Not Tom Brokaw, could do what you do."
I believe Rachel Maddow is a singular broadcasting phenomenon.
I told her that I believe true journalism and the pursuit of the truth is the last hope for an embattled and divided America.
I asked her if she has sleepless nights, knowing what she knows.
"I don't have some dark cloud that hangs over my life, because some things I know more than most people know.
I sleep well.
In fact, sleeping, exercising, and fishing are the things I seem to do best."
Ah yes.
Rachel has been known to fish at midnight on the Hudson after some broadcasts.
'There's some great 'stripers' in that river.
I fish.
I think.
I lose myself with a rod and reel."
Maddow has dealt with cyclical depression since puberty. In a 2012 interview, she stated, "It doesn't take away from my joy or my work or my energy, but coping with depression is something that is part of the everyday way that I live and have lived for as long as I can remember." She has explained why she decided to speak about it in interviews: "It was a hard call...Because it was nobody's business. But it had been helpful to me to learn about the people who were surviving, were leading good lives, even though they were dealing with depression. So I felt it was a bit of a responsibility to pay that back."
Rachel Maddow has been dismissed by those on the right as completely biased, left-leaning , and not impartial.
She doesn't have much time to pay attention to the critics or the accolades, and tries not to respond to either side.
She is a professional skeptic.
During the 2008 presidential election, Maddow did not formally support any candidate. Concerning Barack Obama's candidacy, Maddow said, "I have never and still don't think of myself as an Obama supporter, either professionally or actually."
If Maddow is troubled by what is happening in America, she barely acknowledges it.
Her job is to take facts, data, and information, distill it all, and put the material into some context and narrative, and to do it faster and with more precision than any news broadcaster in the business.
In a way, I thought, she's a true news "play-by-play" announcer in real-time...every night is another curveball, another unexpected event, that makes preparation and scripting almost obsolete and useless.
She throws away prepared shows on the fly because incoming news and information make those other segments worthless.
"She spins the plates every single night, like that guy on the 'Ed Sullivan Show' used to", says one staff member.
"But the plates never fall, and she is able to keep this balancing act under control with command, poise, and style, never losing sight of the truth.
I ask her if she can do this job for say, another 40 years.
"40 years?", she says. I don't know if I want to do this another 4 years.
It's killing me", she laughs.
She was ready to leave now.
She was affable, self-effacing, friendly and chatty with me and though she was not feeling well and her ankle was throbbing with pain, she smiled a lot, laughed a lot and her graciousness made me, even more, a "believer".
"I wish people knew how great a human being she was", said one of her colleagues.
She somehow found time to host a wildly popular podcast called "Bag Man" and written several books.
Her newest is called Blowout: Corrupted democracy, rogue state Russia, and the richest, most destructive industry on Earth.
Many years ago I asked Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Murray how he went about his job.
Murray said, "I look it every day as just another day at the lathe".
Rachel Maddow's "lathe" is a never-ending challenge and "fly by the seat of her pants" occupation filled with obstacles, real-time changes and stunning developments.
She never seems to trip up.
Never loses sight of the stories that are changing history and in a divided and polarized America.
As I watch her walk away, I stand in awe of what she does, how she does it, and her pursuit of the truth wherever it lands...
In my lifetime, I've never seen a broadcaster in any realm that went about their job quite the way she does.
Dolly Parton once said ,"It's hard to be a diamond in a world of rhinestones".
Rachel Maddow is a diamond, a precious gem of a news broadcaster in a world of lies, deception, corruption, greed, and avarice.
Getting the story right, and reporting it with style and panache and humor is what sets her apart from the other "rhinestones".
She's the very best in her business.
She doesn't care to appear in a movie, or host" Saturday Night Live", or do much of anything else but write, report, and play traffic cop in an unending, head-on collision of stories every night.
She just wants to get it right.
And she does.
Every single night.

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