“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Reid said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It is a huge responsibility.”
She described herself as an “opinion journalist” who brings her background and identity — “grounded in journalism” — to her job at a time when race and police brutality are topics of daily national discussion. “I come into the world as a black woman, a child of immigrants, as a black parent,” she said. “I just feel like I’m bringing something unique from that point of view.”
Following the lead of “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” which Matthews hosted for more than 20 years, Reid’s show will be based in Washington, in contrast to the rest of the network’s New York-based prime-time lineup. (She has a home in the D.C. area, though her family also has been based in New York.)
The “ReidOut” name is a reference to a “readout” in politics, when a summary of a call or meeting is provided. “I really thought a lot about the name,” she said. “Because it’s got a good little hashtag capability, and I think it speaks to my love of politics.”
Reid joined MSNBC as a contributor in 2011 and hosted a daily show called “The Reid Report” that was canceled in February 2015 as part of a pivot to more “news-focused” dayside programming. In 2016, she began hosting the two-hour-long weekend show “AM Joy” on Saturday and Sunday mornings. With her move to weekday prime time, a rotating group of fill-in anchors will take over her weekend time slot until a long-term hosting decision is made, according to the network.
“What’s exciting about this opportunity is to take what we’ve built at ‘AM Joy,’ to take the brand that I’ve been able to build there, and then bring that to a prime-time setting,” she said.
Reid, 51, has also been a prolific pinch-hitter, frequently guest-hosting the network’s more high-profile weekday prime-time shows over the past few years in addition to her weekend role. Since Matthews’s retirement more than four months ago, she has been a regular presence at 7 p.m. as a guest host, rotating along with national correspondent Steve Kornacki and hosts Ari Melber and Ali Velshi.
As fill-in, “you’re a guest in someone’s house,” she said. “You’re not going there to rearrange the furniture. You’re there to fit in.” With her own prime-time show, “I get to build the franchise, which is extremely cool. I’m actually building the house now, and so that’s a whole different kind of fun.”
“Joy has one of the sharpest minds in the business and will be a force to be reckoned with in the evenings,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin said. “She’s a powerful addition to the weeknight lineup bringing a perspective that’s sorely needed.”
By giving her the 7 p.m. time slot, MSNBC management is hoping to cement a prime-time lineup that it can count on for years to come, with Reid followed by the 41-year-old Chris Hayes and network star Rachel Maddow, 47, at 9 p.m. Along with the other major cable news networks, MSNBC has achieved steady ratings growth throughout the Trump era, up from an average of 880,000 total prime-time viewers in the second quarter of 2016 to nearly 2 million viewers for the second quarter of this year. Fox News still dominates cable news viewership, averaging 3.5 million total viewers in prime time, with CNN narrowly trailing MSNBC with 1.8 million viewers.
Reid’s career has spanned and crossed media, including work as a radio host and producer, a newspaper columnist, a political blogger and as managing editor of the Grio, an online news site targeted at a black audience. She has worked in the political arena, including a stint as the deputy state communications director for a voter education organization and with former president Barack Obama’s Florida campaign operation in 2008.
In 2004, she says, she made a dream board, and one of her goals was to be a guest on “Hardball.” “It is pretty amazing,” she said. “I’m the original ‘Hardball’ fan. I’ve been watching ‘Hardball’ since it started.”
Matthews’s abrupt departure in March followed a string of public embarrassments. The week before his retirement, he had apologized to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign for seeming to compare his rise to the Nazi rout of France in World War II, and then to a black Senate candidate for confusing him with his state’s black sitting senator. On Feb. 28, GQ columnist Laura Bassett accused him of making inappropriate comments to her when she appeared on his show in 2016.
In announcing his departure on the air, Matthews apologized for the remarks to Bassett. “Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were okay were never okay,” he said. “Not then and certainly not today. And for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”
During her rise at the network, Reid said Matthews “was something of a mentor to me. … I saw the symmetry between our backgrounds, even though we’re obviously such different people. And, we agreed on a lot of things. It was just interesting. So, to me, being in the same slot as him is just a humbling thing. To be trusted with this really important, original time slot of MSNBC.”
Reid has also faced controversy for her past writing. In June 2018, MSNBC issued a statement of support for Reid, acknowledging that she had written “obviously hateful and hurtful” words on an old blog she maintained. “They are not reflective of the colleague and friend we have known at MSNBC for the past seven years,” the network said at the time.
Although she asserted at one point that her blog had been “manipulated,” which she later said was not proved, Reid issued multiple apologies — in December 2017 for blog posts about politician Charlie Crist and again the following April and June. “While I published my blog, starting in 2005, I wrote thousands of posts in real time on the issues of the day,” Reid said that June. “There are things I deeply regret and am embarrassed by, things I would have said differently and issues where my position has changed. … I’m sorry for the collateral damage and pain this is causing individuals and communities caught in the crossfire.”
On the April 28, 2018, edition of “AM Joy,” Reid hosted a panel of LGBTQ advocates to talk about the effect of her words and the challenges facing their community. The discussion was a supportive one.
“I just wanted to hear the pain of a community that matters to me and that matters to this country,” she told The Washington Post. “This is a community that does need to be heard, and I hope that they feel that I did hear them.”
Reid said she plans to tell LGBTQ stories on “The ReidOut.” “I’m taking those relationships with me into what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m taking those stories with me into what I’m doing. And I just hope that the people who were so good to me, and who were so kind to me in that moment, will feel proud of what we create at 7. Because we’re going to try to do something that is fully representative of everyone in this country, and that includes the LGBTQ community.”