The New York Times recently ran an article on how American evangelical Christians took their anti-gay message to Uganda's very receptive audience and -- in light of Uganda's subsequent decision to execute people for being gay -- are now trying to backpedal furiously with the "Ooops! Cultural misunderstanding!" defense.
What wasn't mentioned in the article: Rachel Maddow was in front of this story a month ago. In fact, she was all over the story for a week. And yet ... not a whole lot of credit going to her for that.
I sometimes wonder if pop culture brahmins simply don't know what to do with Maddow. Here you have a woman who pontificates on the issues of the day without spouting inanities or playing second banana to the presumed, male brains on the show. Maddow is calmly comfortable with her intellect and her journalistic instincts, and she's not really going to apologize if her competence threatens a viewer. In terms of talking heads, she is sui generis.
Could this be why she's less of a coverage-leader in mainstream media? Or does it have something to do with the numbers? Maddow is frequently second to her counterpart on FOX (alternately O'Reilly or Hannity) and O'Reilly does manage to set media agendas in a way that Maddow hasn't been able to yet?
Two other talking-head shows that have done tremendously well in leading -- and getting credit for leading -- news coverage? The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. I briefly thought, "Maybe Maddow needs to loop [Daily Show co-creator] Lizz Winstead into her production team and add a bit of pop culture contagion." She's got the formula down -- a hybrid of facts and entertainment.
Except that sort of undermines Maddow's appeal, which is that she really feels no need to neutralize her brains and focus with a goofy entertainment act. Why, do you think, is gravitas so unsettling to media professionals and consumers?