Today we honor and celebrate Dr. Rachel Maddow, a woman who is trying to bring real discussion back into television journalism. While a freshman at Stanford University, she was outed in a campus paper interview before she was able to tell her parents.
I always love papers that out people just for the sake of outing them–my what code of ethics does that follow? Where is the journalistic integrity in outing people for no reason, save that it makes money, or causes a scandal, which just colludes with the dominant discourse? It would be different if they were outing someone with power that was using that power to hurt the LGBT community, but such was not the case with our Maddow. Fortunately, her family were supportive, and she has been out and proud ever since.
After receiving her degree in public policy from Stanford, she was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, becoming the first openly LGBT Rhodes scholar. She received her Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University with her thesis entitled HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons.
These early events clearly hinted at her outspoken nature and her dedication to open discourse. She won a contest to become a radio announcer shortly after returning to the U.S., launching her broadcast career. She worked in radio for local Massachusetts stations and then joined Air America. Unabashedly liberal, she has observed the rightward drift of this country’s politics with the quip
I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.
While still on Air America, she began regular guest spots on MSNBC’s nightly programs. Soon she was offered her own show, a TV version of her radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show. This made her the first openly LGBT host of a major prime-time news show in the U.S. She also routinely has her network’s most highly rated show – in what still remains a “white hetero male dominated” industry.
Her program is a wonderful mixture of straight news, opinion, and interviews–all offered through a social justice lens. In fact, I’m not sure there are other national programs that stand in such solidarity with those that are marginalized and oppressed by those in power and charged with the task of representing all Americans. I love that Maddow holds these hypocrites’ feet to the fire.
Maddow’s work has been consistently recognized for its quality and insight. She has been repeatedly nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism, winning in 2010 for her expose on Uganda’s horrific anti-gay efforts. Both the Advocate and Out magazine regularly include her in their lists of the most influential out media personalities. Her coverage of health care netted her a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood in 2010, the year she was also awarded the Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award. It’s nice to see that an outspoken media voice with an interest in social justice can be recognized for her important work.
I’m also grateful for her visibility as a lesbian, for the more visible we are individually and collectively, the more difficult it is to target and marginalize us! Brava, Ms. Maddow!