At long last, we have arrived at the end of 2016, a journey into often surreal political worlds most of us would have thought too fantastical to believe. To be sure, the vicious, often bizarre, presidential election that transfixed the globe ran through our newsrooms, TV studios, and production offices before it was transmitted to the world. And those messengers became as much the story this year as the political messages themselves. So this year our list of Most Influential List of People in News Media will be more relevant and controversial than ever. We often chose the people here based on how relevant they were in the Mediaite world while also attempting to include a handful whose names you might not know but who were instrumental in helping to shape the coverage behind the scenes. This is certainly not an exhaustive list and there are many stars we were not able to include. But we gave it a shot and ranked the top 25 — in order of influence according to our editors — followed by the “Just as Influential as the Rest” of 52 additional names which include some of the biggest household names in the business. Let us know what you think. Of course, you always do.
Here are the Top 25 (in reverse order from # 25 to our #1 Most Influential)
#25 John Oliver, Host
#24 Martha Raddatz, ABC Chief Global Affairs Correspondent
#23 Jorge Ramos, Univision Anchor
#22 Don Lemon, CNN Anchor
#21 Tucker Carlson, Fox Anchor
#20 Robin Roberts, ABC Anchor
#19 Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, Co-Presidents of Fox News
#18 Jesse Angelo, CEO and Publisher New York Post
#17 Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Anchor
#16 Murdoch Family
# 15 Katy Tur, MSNBC Reporter
#14 David Fahrenthold, Washington Post Reporter
#13 Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor
#12 Chuck Todd, MSNBC/NBC Host
# 11 Joe Scarborough, MSNBC Host
#10 Chris Cuomo, CNN Anchor
#9 George Stephanopoulos, ABC Host
#8 Chris Wallace, Fox Host
# 7 Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC Host
#6 Andy Lack, Chairman NBC/MSNBC
# 5 Sean Hannity, Fox News Host
# 4 Matt Drudge, The Drudge Report
#3 Carolyn Ryan, The New York Times
# 2 Megyn Kelly, Fox News Host
John Oliver piloted his Last Week Tonight through its first presidential cycle with aplomb, wit, and his former boss’s unyielding allergy to B.S. With the freedom to take the long view of the news, he presided over a feast of lucid, hilarious deep dives into matters of public interest too often overlooked. As surely as he mocked the media cycle, he drove it too: No Monday morning was complete without an explosion of “John Oliver Eviscerates This” and “John Oliver Smashes That” recaps. His was and remains the Sunday show that delivers the punchline to every other Sunday show.
ABC’s Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz had a standout year as she helped steer the network’s political coverage for the 2016 election. This year, she was also named co-anchor with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Sunday staple "This Week” where she consistently made headlines for her tough questioning of guests on both sides of the political aisle. Raddatz was universally praised for her sharp, incisive and pointed questions when she moderated a debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October. The ABC veteran has a storied career fearlessly covering the White House, foreign affairs, especially the Middle East. Her expertise in foreign policy and her commitment to nitty gritty reporting was a much needed reprieve in an election fraught with political mud slinging.
In late 2015, when most media figures covered Trump’s campaign with a posture of charmed exasperation, Univision’s Jorge Ramos stood out for refusing to treat the candidate like a joke. “How are you going to build a wall?” he asked Trump in August 2015, before grilling the reality TV candidate for five minutes on his plans to deport undocumented residents, his proposed border barrier, and his stance on birthright citizenship. (As a reward for his persistence, Trump kicked Ramos out of the press conference.) Considering the scope of Trump’s campaign and the nationalist movement that elevated him, Ramos said, not without controversy, that for journalists, “Neutrality was not an option.” It took some time for the media to take Trump seriously, but Ramos was leading the charge.
The host of CNN Tonight enjoyed arguably the most successful year in his career, spurred on by nightly coverage and commentary of the 2016 race with often divisive and provocative panels. Whether he was overseeing the newest blow up between Trump supporters and passionate #NeverTrump conservatives or moderating a heated conversation about law enforcement in our communities, Lemon’s effort to expose a different layer in every conversation was key. Lemon’s contribution to the 2016 storyline was never just about the debates on his program; he often found himself at the center of the storm, earning the honorific from the GOP nominee himself of “lightweight” after Lemon challenged one of Trump’s supporters’ most outlandish claims. Lemon said during the scrap, “I have two ears and I have two eyes… I’m not stupid,” Lemon even became a part of the story this summer in the intense aftermath of a tragedy in his native Louisiana where three police officers lost their lives, sparring with Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke over the intersection of race, law enforcement, and Black Lives Matter. Don Lemon was a staple of CNN’s coverage for every nominating convention, debate, and nationally televised town hall, easily establishing himself as one of the biggest stars of 2016.
Few cable newsers can say they have hosted programs on CNN, MSNBC, AND Fox News. But with the debut of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News in November, the eponymous host has achieved that impressive feat. He’s already had a few viral hits taking on liberal guests, and it’s in environments like those, when he is up against someone telling him he’s dead wrong, where Carlson truly thrives. He is also one of the few media figures to thrive both on television and digital. Up until recently (when he got the Fox hosting job), Carlson was the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, a popular website he co-founded in 2011 as a conservative alternative to places like The Huffington Post. The Daily Caller has a vast and loyal audience and gets tens of millions of views every month. Like Drudge, the website frequently dictated the election’s top issues and controversies making Carlson a double threat.
In a year where media personalities were vilified, Robin Roberts remains one of the most popular people in America much less on network news. She is also one of the most trusted, according to a recent Reader Digest Survey. Earlier this year, she scored an exclusive sit-down interview with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. She also launched her own podcast based on her new book, Everybody’s Got Something, and manages to continue to help Good Morning America to ratings success. In a highly charged and emotional political season, Roberts stood out as the voice of reason as she attempted to parse through and stay above, the regular spin of the politicos that appeared on her morning program.
Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy are Co-Presidents of FOX News Channel and FOX Business Network. They took the reigns in August of 2016, after Roger Ailes resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. Abernethy is also the CEO of Fox Television Studios. They both report to Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox. This November under their leadership, FOX News had its most-watched month since 2012. Additionally, as of November’s ratings, FOX had defeated every other basic cable network 14 weeks in a row, setting a record. Shine and Abernethy have had the tough task of not only leading the team through a tumultuous presidential race, but also trying to unite a news organization splintered by internal conflicts caused by the outgoing CEO. They, and the network they lead, have emerged as major winners.
If there’s one thing that the New York Post delivered over and over again this election cycle, it’s their must-see daily covers that often skewered some element of the presidential race. The admittedly right-leaning property of News Corp. has been helmed by Jesse Angelo, the CEO and Publisher of the Post, who joined the paper in 1999 and took over running it in 2012. While Angelo, who has long been close with the Murdochs, may not be a household name, his influence should not be underestimated. From gossip leader Page Six (run by Emily Smith), which has been breaking more and more political stories about Trump, to its conservative commentaries, the Post has been the number one seller on newsstands in New York. And its digital footprint is now finally the force it deserves to be and Angelo is the quiet hand guiding it behind the scenes. The Post Digital Network comScore average for 3 months (Aug-October) ranks in at a huge 39.3 million. Being in the New York Post may not always be a good thing but it definitely matters and so does its leader.
Rachel Maddow may be the single most important liberal voice in America. Yes there are certainly a few print columnists who may get quoted more but five days a week, Maddow leads the charge for liberals and against what she often sees as the dangers and hypocrisy of the Republican establishment (and, of course, Donald Trump). Her commentaries are well researched, thought provoking and often newsworthy. Maddow also has the highest rated show on MSNBC which across the board has seen significant bumps in prime-time numbers and audience growth. Throughout the 2016 election, Maddow alternated between the thoughtful left-leaning commentary of her show, and providing live coverage on some the biggest moments of the year. Whether she’s addressing national security, international politics or the changing nature of political discourse, Maddow will remain a prominent fact checker and critic of the incoming administration.
If you paid even a little bit of attention to the 2016 election, you became familiar with name Katy Tur. The NBC/MSNBC reporter was working in London but covered Donald Trump's campaign announcement during a stint back home in the States. From there, she was thrown into a year-and-a-half project that saw her covering his every move -- and him "covering" her back. She dominated MSNBC’s election coverage along with fellow rising star road warriors Hallie Jackson, Kasie Hunt, Jacob Soboroff, and Kristen Welker. The real estate mogul commonly called Tur out by name, critiquing her reporting on him and causing his supporters to turn against her specifically. The intense focus on her led to a solidarity movement known as #ImWithTur. If you watch even a little of the unflinching work she continued to do, even after the attacks on her began, you'll be with her, too.
While investigating Donald Trump’s philanthropic giving (or lack thereof), the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold was really doing charity work for those who care about investigative reporting. His tweets about the Trump Foundation regularly became morning show news headlines. Most recently, Fahrenthold broke a story about how the Trump Foundation admitted to violating a ban on self-dealing in a new IRS filing. His reporting got instant results including leading Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to suspend the foundation's charitable activities in New York. The Poytner Institute called him “one of the journalism stars of the 2016 campaign.” Most notably, on October 7, Fahrenthold broke news of the scandalous 2005 Access Hollywood video recording that contained crude remarks from the then Republican presidential nominee. The newspaper said that became “the most concurrently viewed article in the history of The Post’s website.” He proved to be a reporter's reporter and has set the bar for others in the field.
Jake Tapper who hosts both The Lead and State of the Union on CNN, has long landed atop many Mediaite lists and 2016 was no exception. His even-handed, smart interviews and commentary with Democratic and Republican politicians alike cemented his reputation as a relentless truth-seeker. During one interview with the now President-elect Donald Trump, Tapper repeatedly asked him about his racial attacks on the judge who was to be presiding over his Trump University fraud case-only stopping when Trump had finally answered the question (and made news). On another occasion, he slammed Donna Brazile, formerly of CNN for her part in the leaking of debate questions to Hillary Clinton. Most recently, he sparred with Michael Flynn, Jr. in Twitter direct messages, saying his tweet was “wildly irresponsible” after he continued to peddle conspiracy theories about #PizzaGate following a shooting at a D.C. pizzeria. He contributed to CNN’s October ratings, when for the first time in 15 years CNN edged FOX News in both total day and primetime demos, by being the No. 1 program in his time slot for that month.
When Chuck Todd talks, politicos listen. That could be part of the reason that this Meet The Press host was given a daily extension of his program to air weekdays for MSNBC in the lead-up to the crucial election. Todd’s take on the day’s top headlines and the key political information he presents each day made for must-watch political television. Even though Chuck Todd is known as one of the network’s most down-the-middle steady hands, he isn’t without his own fair share of controversy; at times during the 2016 cycle, his influence was demonstrated by becoming a target of Donald Trump, who regularly took to social media to slam the Meet The Press host as “sleepy eyes” when his interviews got too tough. He regularly grilled the top newsmakers in the worlds of politics and media, and took an unflappable bipartisan approach when it mattered most. As controversies rocked both campaigns in the final stretch, Chuck Todd reliably held their feet to the fire at every turn, making Meet The Press as important a political show on TV as any other in 2016.
Ask any political influencer, of either party, which media figures they watch or follow and it would be shocking if Joe Scarborough was not at, or near, the top of all lists. When this former GOP Congressman talks, people listen; in fact, the spirited national debate over whether Joe (and Mika) were too cozy with Trump at times demonstrates just how important Joe's opinions can be. His relationship with the President-elect — at times just as noteworthy as Trump himself — was a back and forth that unfolded in front of a national audience. At times, Scarborough was supportive of Trump when most others in the media “elite” gave him no chance of victory; at the same time, Scarborough could pivot and be vicious in a takedown of the controversial candidate. He also knew how to spar with other newsmakers; he famously shut off Florida Governor Rick Scott’s microphone during a heated fight about immigration in America. His ongoing feud of sorts with the CNN Money team has made for additional fourth estate headlines in last year, proving again that there is no fight he will back down from. Joe Scarborough is once again an easy selection to our list of Most Influential in News Media.
Chris Cuomo became a standout as the co-anchor of CNN’s morning show New Day during the 2016 election known for his tenacious, often newsworthy interviews . His epic 32-minute debate with Rudy Giuliani about Donald Trump became legendary and his meticulous preparation for interviews didn’t go unnoticed. As politicos tried to spin from both sides of the political aisle, Cuomo makes a point of trying to steer the interviews back on track, and get the pundits to stick to the facts (which was often hard to do). In November, his show with co-host Alisyn Camerota had its best ever month and topped MSNBC’s Morning Joe among adults in the key 25 to 54 demo. He is also a force on Twitter where he corresponds and debates with his 1.15 million followers on a regular basis.
In a busy election year, George Stephanopolous juggled three major roles at ABC including Chief Political Correspondent, co-host of the networks’s Sunday morning program, This Week, and co-anchor of Good Morning America. His pointed interviews every Sunday consistently made headlines on Mediaite — and beyond. The veteran journalist relentlessly pressed Donald Trump throughout the election season on his campaign fabrications including most recently the president-elect’s insistence (without a shred of evidence) that millions voted “illegally” for Hillary Clinton. Despite controversy about his ties to the Clintons, Stephanopolous often proved to be equally tough on Clinton surrogates who appeared on both GMA and This Week. No matter what one thinks of his political background, regular interviews with "George" became must dos on the 2016 campaign trail and they rarely disappointed.
Chris Wallace has been in broadcast for more than 50 years and has covered almost every major political event for FOX News in his 13 years there, including an exclusive interview with President Barack Obama this year, the President’s first interview on FOX News since 2014. Maybe most relevant this year, he gained nationwide praise for his extraordinary handling of the last debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. One usually tough critic wrote, “Chris Wallace delivered a sterling performance” saying he maintained “order and focusing on substantive issues that matter to American voters.” Yes, actual issues. During a hectic election year, Wallace proved to be an important voice of reason and calm.
The show may be called “Morning Joe” but make no mistake — Mika Brzezinski is every bit responsible for its success as her co-host. The MSNBC morning show is the definitive newsmakers for the “the influencers,” and you’d be hard pressed to find many journalists and elected officials in the Acela corridor who don’t watch for Brzezinski’s take every morning. Brzezinski once told Mediaite in an interview that “We say exactly what is on the edge of our tongues,” and in 2016 she proved it; from the time she slammed the Clinton Foundation as “sleazy” and “morally deficit” to when she blasted Trump’s Mexico trip as the height of “stupidity,” you can always count on “Morning Mika” to tell us how it is. Her unapologetic tenacity and sharp commentary are must-watch in the mornings, and her ability to make news led us to put Brzezinski even slightly above her co-host on this list. While Joe has his name on the show, without Mika that cup of Joe just doesn't have the same kick.
2014 -2015 wasn’t the best of years for MSNBC, due to a combination of programming changes, staff departures from the network, and falling ratings behind Fox and CNN. After extended stints at Sony and Bloomberg, Lack returned to NBC News on the heels of the crisis involving Brian Williams, who was suspended after fabricating accounts. Since Lack returned to NBCUniversal and become chairman of NBC and MSNBC, the conglomerate has re-established itself. He canceled three daytime opinion based shows to make room for more straight news and politics, in an attempt to re-fashion the liberal leaning network at least during the daytime hours. Overseeing that much news programming makes him a major influencer regardless but third quarter ratings for MSNBC show an approximate growth of 84% in total viewership, and it’s prime-time numbers are now far more competitive than they have been in many years. This became especially visible in November when election coverage led the network to see a year-over-year total day growth that beat out it’s rivals. As shows like NBC Nightly News, Morning Joe and The Rachel Maddow Show continue to draw noteworthy audiences, it becomes clear that Lack’s leadership and direction has proved him to be a major, and positive, influence for the mega news operation he is overseeing.
Sean Hannity's unapologetic commitment to Donald Trump both on Fox News and his nationally syndicated radio show, would certainly seem to have had a hand in boosting Trump to the presidency. Hannity’s passionate advocacy for Trump, despite a constant barrage of criticism, became a touchstone of the election cycle, and a sore spot for liberals. Throughout the campaign, Hannity was not shy about blasting the media for what he perceived as bias and unfair coverage of the Republican candidates, most especially Trump. In September, Hannity had the highest rated cable news show in the key demo beating out his colleagues Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly. He recently traveled to Cincinnati where he interviewed President-Elect Trump and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence on his program. This was the first cable news interview Trump did since his victory and one of a number of interviews that Trump seems willing to give, only to Hannity. Expect Hannity to remain a media force throughout the Trump administration.
“It’s on Drudge.” The fact that those simple three words carry so much weight in 2016 is a testament to the continued relevance of Matt Drudge and the Drudge Report. The direction Drudge has taken the site in the past year has been the subject of great debate within media circles, but the site (and Drudge himself) still possesses almost incomparable power to get people talking. During the 2016 election, the stories that Matt Drudge placed on his website undeniably shaped the direction of the public dialogue, and many believed help propel Donald Trump to the top of the GOP primary heap. Despite its somewhat archaic looking page layout, The Drudge Report saw record-traffic this election season moving into second place on Similar Web’s Top U.S. Media Publisher ranking in July, and finishing off in the third place with a record 1.7 billion combined page views for the month of October. And with Donald Trump poised to be sworn in January, you can bet that his enormous influence will not end here.
leading the Times’ political coverage this year was Carolyn Ryan, Senior Politics Editor. From a digital perspective, the New York Times served as the definitive home for primary results and the moment-by-moment outcome on election night; following The Upshot’s consistent updates in real time was a must-see for countless of readers. Now that Trump has won, subscriptions have skyrocketed with many counting on The Times and its entire editorial team led by Dean Baquet to be the single most important force keeping the new President and his administration honest.
“Just as Influential as the Rest” in alphabetical order:
Breitbart: Joel Pollack and Alex Marlow
POLITICO Playbook: Daniel Lippman, Anna Palmer, and Jake Sherman
Jay Sures, United Talent Agency
Vanity Fair's The Hive: Jon Kelly, Mike Hogan, and Matt Lynch
CNN’s Chief political correspondent Dana Bash had a banner year. She gave aggressive pushback to every single candidate fighting for the presidency and was able to net interviews using a combination of natural approachability and dogged determination. She seemed to be constantly on the road at campaign events, doing live shots and conducting interviews for broader pieces almost daily. Very often as the slogan goes, it felt she -was- CNN. As she mentioned in CNN’s Girls on the Bus series, this was the campaign of a lifetime and along with her producer Abigail Crutchfield she became one of the breakout stars of 2016.
As many conservative pundits recanted their opposition to Trump, captain of TheBlaze Glenn Beck never wavered in his conviction that the candidate and the “alt-right” movement he empowered were the wrong choices. In withholding his support for the GOP nominee, the Never Trump stalwart courted the outrage of conservative allies and the admiration of onetime rivals, who praised him for his open-mindedness to Clinton and his belated admission of respect for Obama. The problem, a sober Beck said on election night, is “we don’t listen to each other and we don’t trust each other.” Beck has become surprisingly unpredictable which makes him that much more influential if you can get him on your side.
Eric Bolling, has long been a fixture on Mediaite but this year he became a national star. Why? Because he became just one of a tiny handful of media leaders who can now say “I was right about Donald Trump.” He was panned for his spirited defenses of the mogul who became a candidate, then a nominee, and now the President-elect, but he has reason to gloat now... which he does. Oh just occasionally. The Five, which he moderates along with other big Fox names Kimberly Guilfoyle, Juan Williams, Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld and occasional others has become a cable news ratings monster but with talk of a spot for him in the new administration, who knows what is next for Bolling.
The mere mention of Breitbart always guarantees an immediate reaction, whether it be positive or negative. There’s a reason Steve Bannon’s White House appointment spawned all that cable news coverage. Breitbart has expanded its success and influence under the direction of Joel Pollak and Alexander Marlow. Marlow in particular has been viewed as a young rising media star, having placed in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in media in 2015 and being the subject of a CNN profile just months ago, Breitbart has, of course, been controversial due to its association with the alt-right––a connection that Pollak strongly disputed during a CNN appearance this year. Nevertheless, that association has led to companies like Kellogg’s to pull ads from the site. But Breitbart retaliated by calling for a boycott, and the fact that #DumpKelloggs ended up being a top Twitter trend is a testament to the size and influence of Breitbart and its audience.
You may know Neil Cavuto as the anchor of Your World on weekdays and Cavuto on Business on Sundays, but what makes him even more influential is that he is also a top manager. Unlike other on-air stars, Cavuto is also a senior vice president and managing editor for Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. Despite numerous health problems- he’s a cancer survivor, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and had open-heart surgery earlier this year, he’s remained a powerful fixture on his network, including moderating a GOP debate in January and offering pointed (generally conservative) commentaries throughout the election. He made enough of an impact that even being absent for a chunk of this year, he signed a contract extension with FOX- they like him there both on and off the air. His influence is not to be underestimated.
If CNN was one of the most pivotal homes for political media during the 2016 election cycle, then the host of ‘360’ is one of its most critical and influential figures. To be sure, Anderson Cooper’s nightly work on the network made for must-see TV, as the season vet grilled lawmakers and newsmakers alike while moderating panels that would frequently lead to on-air brawls. But Cooper knows when to toss out the script and speak from the gut. He frequently tore into campaign surrogates when he saw right through their nonsense, and famously remarked right to Donald Trump’s face, “With all due respect, sir, that's the argument of a 5-year-old.” He moderated a litany of panels and town hall events for CNN this political season, scoring a sit-down with President Obama on gun control before being named by the Commission on Presidential Debates as one of the co-moderators for the general election. Cooper is, without a doubt, one of the single biggest names of our industry, and his crossover appeal to programs like 60 Minutes and LIVE with Kelly (where he was been long rumored to become the new daily fixture) on ABC demonstrate his continuing influence.
Abigail Crutchfield is CNN’s Dana Bash’s all-star producer. Bash interviewed nine presidential candidates in 2016, including multiple interviews with President-Elect Donald Trump and Crutchfield is the mastermind who made it all happen. At CNN’s presidential debates, Bash was a questioner and Crutchfield was behind the scenes, working with her to prepare. During presidential conventions, Crutchfield and Bash reported from 3:00pm to 11:00pm daily, which led to Bash’s interview with Trump’s adult children- the first one they did after their father officially became the Republican nominee. Without Crutchfield, Bash would have had a lot fewer guests.
Kurt Eichenwald -- of Newsweek and Vanity Fair, of course -- was one of those media figures who had a long, successful career in the pre-Trump world, but whose star rose ever higher as the campaign season wore on. Just days before the election, Eichenwald generated headlines with his exclusive report about the root of Putin’s love for Trump. Whether it was his groundbreaking and assertive pieces or his unique online presence, he seemed to be cropping up in conversation all throughout the worlds of politics and media. Of course, he wouldn’t have been nearly as influential this year had he not laid the groundwork for his credibility by working tirelessly for years as a journalist for CBS News, the New York Times, Portfolio, and more. It was his bona fides in the field coupled with his no-nonsense takes on the election that cemented him as one of this year’s most influential and someone political reporters can look up to for years to come.
Arden Farhi serves as CBS’s White House Producer and spent much of 2016 following Donald Trump and providing first-hand accounts of the campaign and contributing to dozens of reports. (And will, obviously, be involved in covering President Trump in 2017 in his role.) Farhi was present during the chaotic Reno rally days prior to Election Day when Trump was rushed off stage by the Secret Service after it was thought someone in the crowd had a gun and was on hand during a rowdy anti-Trump protest outside a June rally in San Jose. His CBS News peers consistently named him among the first when asked to laud a person critical to their 2016 election coverage. A classic behind the scenes star who deserves to be recognized this year.
By her own admission, this ‘Barrons of the Beltway’ author never intended to become a part of the story this year, instead assuming her original reporting would suffice for a solid turn covering the election. Of course, that all changed one fateful night in Florida when she accused Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of assaulting her during a rally. Fields soon found herself at the center of a political media firestorm whose implications rippled on. That’s hardly the sole reason we’ve included Michelle Fields here on our list however; she left Breitbart this year to begin her work for The Huffington Post, and continued a healthy level of sharply-aimed, and widely shared, criticism against the Trump candidacy in her new role. 2016 was a hallmark year for this young journalist, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the new year will bring.
Paul Gigot oversees editorials at the Wall Street Journal and often set the tone for how the larger media would see the election through the lens of the right of center media. Recently, the Journal changed the public discourse after the editorial board penned a scathing op-ed that ripped President-elect Donald Trump over the deal he negotiated with Carrier that would enable a plant to keep additional jobs in the United States. This week, the board published a piece that suggested Trump’s decision to talk to the Taiwanese president may in fact turn out to be a good thing. On top of his editorial duties, Gigot hosts “The Journal Editorial Report” on Fox News. The Journal and Fox News are the two most influential right of center entities in the mainstream media and Gigot was a major player in both in 2016.
Fin Gomez of Fox News Channel became integral for the network behind the scenes in large part thanks to solid connections within the Hillary Clinton campaign. Where other hosts on the channel found the campaign’s lack of participation in its own coverage frustrating, Gomez worked tirelessly securing statements and critical interviews. One can imagine that it can’t always have been easy being the Fox News producer responsible for Hillary Clinton but according to those inside Fox, Serafin used that challenge to become a critical player this election season.
NBC’s Today Show has a place in the heart of many Americans, which is certainly due to in part to co-host and legal correspondent, Savannah Guthrie. Viewers across the country saw Guthrie spend hours on air covering the 2016 election along with her star co-anchor Matt Lauer. In a recent profile piece in the Hollywood Reporter, her boss, Andy Lack, praised the host for having a “very good bullshit” detector. In June, Guthrie pushed back on Trump calling it “unseemly” when he offered himself congratulations for forecasting there would be another terrorist attack. Guthrie has handled everything from political interviews, to lighter segments, and the payoff is evident in the third quarter ratings boost that placed Today ahead of the competition at ABC and CBS in certain metrics. More can certainly be expected of her once she returns from maternity leave and Mediaite congratulates her as she prepares to give birth to her second child.
To successfully hold your own as one of the top voices in cable news is one thing. But to demonstrate that you have enough crossover appeal to also play to the TODAY Show crowd is a talent set all its own. NBC’s Tamron Hall showed this year that she knows how to hit the sweet spot. It would be enough to highlight Hall’s personal work to be a force for good, fighting on behalf of domestic abuse victims but a whole other thing altogether to spotlight her political interviews that often led to headlines everywhere. This summer during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Hall left Trump surrogate Scott Baio absolutely stuttering and sputtering for air when she slammed him on MSNBC for cheap shots aimed at Hillary Clinton.
On top of the two shows, and his managerial duties, Halperin was also a regular Morning Joe guest where his insights consistently made headlines during the 2016 election. Last month, he didn't hold back ripping The New York Times for ‘anti-Trump’ bias following the election. “It's amazing,” Halperin said referring to a recent Times headline about Trump’s victory. “It's The Onion.” Some have critiqued him for being “too favorable” to Donald Trump but make no mistake in most of those cases Halperin ended up being right. And, just this week, he questioned the president-elect's decision to have a phone call with the Taiwanese President. "There's an improvisational quality to how they're dealing with everything," he noted about the transition team and quickly-assembling cabinet. "And that's a little bit dangerous," he said. Agree with him or not, when Halperin offers up his analysis, the political world listens.
John Heilemann was one pundit who could be counted on to tell it like it was and predict how it would be, no matter what outrageous things were going on in the campaign cycle. He and co-host Mark Halperin kept a busy schedule this election season with their show, With All Due Respect, his continuing duties as co-managing editor of Bloomberg politics, and his new Showtime feature, With The Circus: Inside the Greatest Show on Earth. Heilemann brought viewers an inside look at what really goes in during a presidential campaign, providing the sort of first-hand account that will be heavily valued by historians in the years to come.
Few people sparked as many fierce debates this year as CNN’s liberal commentator Van Jones. Until the bitter end of the election, he was creating the talking points and coining phrases like “whitelash,” as he became one of the best known Trump critics. He eventually took on The Messy Truth, a project that involved him spending time talking to Donald Trump’s voters and trying to better understand them. His commitment to his beliefs coupled with his willingness to hear other sides of the story made him an unstoppable force this year. You know you have made it when just saying the name "Van Jones" evokes a visceral reaction. . . one way or another.
As Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News, Jonathan Karl has become one of the most recognizable and influential reporters in the nation's Capitol. Whether he was asking Donald Trump about his attacks on primary opponents and their wives or prodding President Barack Obama about his pre-election statements about Trump being unfit for the presidency, Karl was often asking the toughest questions at press conferences. Beloved and despised on both sides of the political aisle, Karl proved to be precisely what a White House reporter ought to be: dogged, non-partisan and well-respected.
Without a doubt, Brianna Keilar has been one of the 2016 election’s biggest breakout stars, regularly filling in for network stalwart Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room and asking crucial political questions every step of the way. Keilar was also one of the featured correspondents on CNN’s “Girls on the Bus” series, a twist on the decades-old book by Timothy Crouse about the male reporters covering the 1972 election. But times have changed, and CNN’s strong female coalition has featured Brianna Keilar as much as anyone else. Who could forget one of the moments of pure viral gold that she delivered during an on-air interview with Trump surrogate Michael Cohen? Despite the outcome of the election, Keilar’s deadpan delivery and rebuke of Cohen’s argument was viewed by millions of people within mere hours, earning widespread praise from CNN personalities and rival network figures alike.
CNN’s Chief National Correspondent was a political superstar in the game once again this year, anchoring Inside Politics and providing a steady hand of veteran prowess to the network’s coverage of the race. If there is a crucial panel or heated conversation going on somewhere on CNN, chances are that John King is standing nearby at his Magic Wall: cable news’ very best visual descriptor of all things that live inside the Venn diagram of “politics” and “cool on-screen graphics.” But that doesn’t mean that King’s contributions are only on the objective side; he would routinely call out candidates in the race for their poor performances (“He might call himself low energy there to borrow a term from the primaries,” he said of Trump) and added commentary important to the discussion. For example, when the trove of hacked emails from John Podesta were made public, King weighed in bluntly, telling the CNN viewers at home, “It shows you the secrecy– some would say paranoia– of Hillary Clinton and her inner circle.” It’s impossible to imagine the CNN political apparatus without associating the name John King..
If ever there was a need for crystal-clear explanations and easy-to-follow news, it was the 2016 election. This campaign season had innumerable twists and turns, which is why news consumers are lucky Vox founder Ezra Klein is no stranger to pulling back the curtain and letting interested parties see what really goes on behind the scenes. In fact, he’s really good at it, as evidenced by the popularity of his old Washington Post blog and newsletter, which aimed to illuminate policymaking for the uninitiated. Years later, he’s still doing it and his work is as vital as ever.
MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki had a big year in part, thanks to his use of huge, interactive boards to illustrate the often complex electoral college or other statistical points. His mastery of technology, innovation, and production made him a break-out geek heartthrob this election season. As likely to have a nerdy political analyst or niche expert on his show as he is to have an opinionated pundit, Kornacki developed a niche, a major following and a big future.
The breakout star of TheBlaze and one of the youngest conservative firebrands, 24-year-old Tomi Lahren became one of the most beloved and loathed pundits of the year — even inspiring multiple petitions to have her sacked. Lahren came to national prominence this year via a series of incendiary monologues, riffing freely and fearlessly on the subjects of race and political correctness. Her bold style and unalloyed praise for Donald Trump earned her a spot on the president-elect's soft launch for Trump TV. That project may have been put on hold for a few years, but Lahren isn't slowing down and expect her to be a major conservative force in the years to come.
With Jon Stewart’s tenure at the Daily Show firmly in the rearview, HBO’s Bill Maher occupied the steady lane of the angsty unapologetic smart-ass (mostly) liberal in the 2016 cycle. His Real Time was the stuff of must-watch-TV every Friday night. He welcomed candidates, spokespeople, and network pundits from all ideologies onto his show in 2016. He’s far less fluffy than many others in the late night game who dominate the other weeknights, and often gets the first crack as the weeks-end storylines even before John Oliver can get his hands on them. His “New Rules” segment alone is worth the price of admission, and his unique ability to volley a panel conversation with top notch guests is a refreshing take on the endless punditry we’re otherwise bombarded with. Bill Maher is still a top dog in the game, and time will only tell how he contributes his voice to the Trump presidency.
If you’re a regular connoisseur of the liberal blogosphere, then you’re already more than familiar with TalkingPointsMemo and Josh Marshall. He was influential in 2016 and 2015 and 2014 and will be again in 2017. Posts from TPM get shared all across the net and help drive conversation on the American left. TPM has been an online mainstay for many years now and there’s no doubt that it will continue to thrive under a Donald Trump presidency.
If it seems as if every presidential election puts the skewering comedy of Saturday Night Live front and center into the American consciousness, you largely have — ironically — a Canadian to thank. SNL’s head honcho Lorne Michaels, who launched the venerable late night program and continues to this day to have an active role in its production, delivered another year for the ages in 2016; supported by a talented and hilarious cast that presented the week’s must-see election parody cold open and sketches every week, Michaels proved yet again that Saturday Night Live is still beyond relevant: it’s downright crucial. The show took square aim at not only the circus behind the presidential candidates themselves, but also the cable news pundits who nitpicked, debated, and screamed their points of view into our living rooms nightly. Yes its comedy but everyone now understands how long lasting, and perilous, the best of those political parodies can be.
2016 was ABC News’ David Muir's break out year. The anchor for World News Tonight became a major player in the ABC News landscape and beyond. Muir secured major interviews at the most competitive times that significantly drove the politics and news media cycles; it was Muir, for instance, who lured an apology out of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Muir also accompanied President Barack Obama on his historic trip to Cuba, earning the exclusive with the Commander in Chief as he normalized relations with that nation for the first time in decades. Under Muir’s careful watch, World News Tonight became a formidable player and neck and neck rival to the NBC Nightly News. He also masterfully co-moderated the third and final Democratic presidential debate along with his cohort Martha Raddatz, securing his place as a leader in this year’s news media landscape.
The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi had a stand-out year that solidified her place among the top ranks of political journalists. Her election reporting was informative and dependable, but it was her tweets from the front lines of event after event that really illuminated the campaigning process for countless readers and followers. From expressing frustration and disgust to cracking jokes, she did her part to humanize an unorthodox period in American history. Speaking of humanizing, her GQ profiles on Hope Hicks and Scottie Nell Hughes brought much-needed dimension to two of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. The 23-year old Nuzzi seems able to make any information digestible, which is a skill that will take her far in the coming years.
Outside of the cable news bubble, many networks news anchors did excellent work in 2016 but few rival Norah O’Donnell of CBS This Morning. When the Democratic primary process was anything but a sure bet for for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, O’Donnell made headlines by grilling fan-favorite Senator Elizabeth Warren about her unannounced support, who at the time seemed to waver between Clinton and Bernie Sanders. One of O’Donnell’s most noteworthy contributions to CBS in 2016 came in the form of a controversial undercover segment for 60 Minutes spotlighting the call centers that American Congressman use to raise untold sums of money. Although cameras were strictly forbidden inside the call center, O’Donnell and show producers defended the decision to air the footage, saying it benefitted the American people to know the truth. “I’m a reporter who covered Capitol Hill for many years,” O’Donnell later recounted. “I didn’t realize those call centers existed. So I’m sure many people in the American public don’t realize that that’s how many lawmakers are spending a lot of their time.” Now we do thanks to Norah’s terrific work in 2016.
From his perch high in the ratings, Fox News Channel’s Bill O'Reilly remains the cable king. Throughout the election, O'Reilly was an increasingly unpredictable political commentator thereby making his views that much more influential. He became one of the few cable hosts who regularly secured interviews with President-elect Donald Trump. And, O’Reilly wasn’t afraid to tell the presidential-elect what he really thought either. After the last presidential debate, O’Reilly opined “I don’t know if he can recover from that.” He did and so did O'Reilly whose empire of historical books also continued to grow throughout 2016.
Aside from having one of the best Snapchat accounts in all of political media (see it for yourself for her famous arm pump of victory), Liz Plank took her talents to Vox earlier in 2016 to serve as the Senior Correspondent after an impressive tenure at Mic. She appears regularly all over cable news, often spotlighting the newest fight for women’s rights. Her memorable turn earlier this year with newly-named Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the stuff of viral glory, hilariously spotlighting (in a tongue-in-cheek way) the public’s fascination with moving northwards after the election.
Remaining THE newsletter to read in the political media during 2016 was no easy feat. But every morning, it was required reading to know what would matter to the movers and shakers in Washington, especially with a historic and unprecedented presidential election hanging over everything. Senior writer Jake Sherman brought his expertise as a congressional reporter to the mix, helping explain how decisions are made in the actual rooms where they meet. Senior Washington correspondent Anna Palmer added her experience as co-author of POLITICO Influence, which was long considered a necessary read on K Street. Reporter Daniel Lippman rounded it all out by tossing in his overseas and environment reporting expertise, giving us the compulsory Playbook.
Mark Preston juggled quite a few key roles during the 2016 election as both the executive editor for CNN Politics and the co-host of Politics Inside Out on SiriusXM. What makes Preston unique is his ability to seamlessly transfer between his managerial duties, providing live analysis, and helping to nail down 2016 election scoops. Just this month, he had the inside details about a Trump meeting with Mitt Romney to discuss a possible Cabinet position. If you don't think that’s enough he also helped coordinate debates and other political events sponsored by CNN this year. Yes he is a solid fixture on tv, but what you don’t see is arguably far more valuable.
He has the job mix that every aspiring journalist wishes they had and the veteran journalist and talk show host enjoyed another banner year in 2016. The CBS This Morning co-anchor won the ICFJ Founders Award for Excellence in Journalism in November, describing the morning program as “the best show on morning television and one of the best shows in the industry.” He also found time to cameo in the mega-blockbuster Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Rose is perhaps best known, however, for his long-running self-named interview series. Charlie Rose gave us some of the best conversations of the year and delivered insightful and informative discussions with guests as varied as Bernie Sanders, Chris Christie, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Donald Rumsfeld, Helen Mirren and President Barack Obama. He may have the best job in television, and he has earned it.
At first glance, you may wonder why this bad boy shock jock made the list for 2016. But upon closer review, it immediately becomes clear that his years of radio interviews with a certain controversial presidential candidate became the stuff of news headlines again and again during this cycle. Largely spearheaded by the efforts of the KFILE team at Buzzfeed/CNN, journalists spent hours combing through Stern’s old footage of every imaginable interview he did with Trump in order to dig up the newest spat of controversies to rock the campaign trail. Rarely, did Stern fall short of delivering an impact, even decades after his interviews originally aired. Without a doubt, Stern is one of the public figures who knows Trump the best, and his lengthy sit-downs with the then-real estate mogul shed an important light onto the character, temperament, and personality of the man who will soon become our 45th President. In a bizarre twist of fate that absolutely no one saw coming, Howard Stern became, by default, a wildly influential figure in political media in 2016.
As Managing Director of United Talent Agency (which purchased news agency N.S. Bienstock), Jay Sures, and his company now represent many of the most prominent people on this list. Their client roster includes Anderson Cooper, Bill O’Reilly, Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd, Norah O’Donnell, Glenn Beck, David Muir, (and Mediaite founder and ABC News' Dan Abrams) just to name a few. It's not just his company either. Sures personally oversees the careers of the biggest and brightest in the news business. Sures, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame this year, also hosted the hottest party at the White House Correspondents Dinner where he was a guest of his client, event host Larry Wilmore.
With anti-establishment sentiments pulsing through the heart of the body politic this year, Cenk Uygur was able to tap into the progressive dissatisfaction with the status quo like few others in 2016. The Young Turks founder and host used his nightly web program to promote progressive and liberal values while taking a no-holds-barred approach to political commentary when it came to this historic and contentious election. The Young Turks boasts over 3 million YouTube subscribers and TYT Network is a veritable online empire, featuring a whole host of shows such as Pop Trigger, TYT Sports, Think Tank and What the Flick?! With an upcoming Trump administration, expect Cenk to be more vocal, and influential, than ever.
At the intersection of money and the power players who generate it lies The Hive, the newest effort from Vanity Fair which launched this year. Jon Kelly has been leading The Hive since its launch in June, focusing on everything from the financial sectors to the Beltway and even Silicon Valley. Mike Hogan has been serving as the Digital Director this year, teaming up with Vanity Fair editor Matt Lynch in the process. Covering the self-described “drama behind the U.S. power corridors,” Kelly, Hogan, and Lynch have have brought an influential voice to important landscapes of public interest. Featuring an array of high-profile writers — along with an impressive list of sponsors — the launch of this vertical proved its value right out of the gate.
CNN’s anchors and staff gets all of their facts from somewhere, and the one most responsible for that would be this man. As CNN’s Director of Political Research for the last fourteen years, Yoon’s influence could be felt through the network’s coverage for 2016. As a veteran of five presidential election cycles, Yoon has become a leading authority on subjects like money in politics and the nomination process. While he says that clowns got in the way of other things he wanted to do, Yoon’s efforts have still netted him an assortment of journalistic awards and honorable mentions. His briefing books have been a guiding force for years of CNN coverage, and he has contributed heavily to the network’s news articles and presidential debate questions.
Shirley Zilberstein is the Executive Producer and Senior Editor of MSNBC, and her contributions behind-the-scenes for the Peacock were instrumental in the success that the network had in 2016. Zilberstein created and led a unit this year that drove information-gathering, research and fact-checking throughout the entire election. From a managerial point of view, Zilberstein discovered new ways to optimize teams of Production Assistants, Associate Producers, Pages and NBC interns. This was an election cycle unlike no other where the never-ending flood of information came into newsrooms at a dizzying rate; thanks to Zilberstein and her team — affectionately referred to around Rockefeller Center as “Shirley’s Army” — that work proved crucial to the success of the network during this unprecedented year.
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