In looking back on 2018 while compiling this list, Mediaite’s editors were struck by the remarkable reshuffling of power and allegiances in the world of media, one that has contorted our “Most Influential” pecking order into exciting new twists.
How we measure influence can be intangible. There are obvious metrics, like ratings, social media reach, the strength of one’s coverage of the news as well as the ability to make it. But that’s not all. Then there are the little pieces of insight gleaned from a conversation with sources that hint to the unseen influence of a personality, which can be paired with the more…gut-level idea of their gravitas in the world of media and politics. One’s proximity to power is a key factor, as is one’s monopoly of an audience that rejects those in charge. A hit talk show which gets national news headlines, meanwhile, can be just as influential as the enterprising White House reporter who churns out scoops.
Here, we take a look at the past year in that world, assessing the anchors, the pundits, the reporters, the editors, the executives, the late night comedians and everyone in between that carried weight in the world Mediaite considers dear.
The Mediaite staff is proud to present the 2018 selections for Most Influential in Political News Media.
This list was reported by Aidan McLaughlin, Josh Feldman, Joe DePaolo, Ken Meyer, Colby Hall, Caleb Howe, Tamar Auber, Amy Russo and Caleb Ecarma.
75. Bill Hemmer
America’s Newsroom on Fox News got a major re-formatting this year, and with Bill Hemmer at its helm, the show is better than ever. The morning news program was expanded to three hours, and it’s turned up the heat thanks to often fiery panel discussions — always held together thanks to Hemmer’s talents as a broadcaster. He’s been hosting the program for almost a decade, but with these changes and the help of co-host Sandra Smith, Hemmer has emerged as one of the most prominent anchors on Fox, a network already top of the pile in influence.
74. Daniel Dale
Daniel Dale has made it his career mission to fact-check President Donald Trump’s statements. It’s a noble — and massive — undertaking and his Twitter threads chronicling the utterances made at each of the president’s many rallies have become a vital resource for those covering the current administration. It’s a thankless task, but someone has to do it. And as a result, Dale has become the foremost expert on the president’s mistruths. We’re praying for him as the 2020 race gets underway.
73. Joy Reid
No program in the MSNBC weekend lineup even approaches the influence of AM Joy — a must-watch for many progressives. A splashy New York Times feature on Reid earlier this year called her a “heroine of the resistance,” which, aside from the scandal over her old blog she claimed was hacked, remains the case to this day. Reid has also led the way in bringing diversity to the punditry by finding smart on-air analysts that others somehow overlooked. During the week, she’s got plenty of clout too. Her popular tweets frequently go viral and she’s the number one choice off the bench to take over when Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell need a night off. Frankly, as Mediaite has written before, it’s not hard to imagine her in the primetime lineup for good sometime down the road.
72. John Oliver
John Oliver has one of the most biting in-depth late night shows on television. Airing Sunday nights — with the help of HBO’s ample budget funding a team of researchers and comedians — Oliver pairs the acerbic wit of an Armando Iannucci character with extensive coverage of important issues overlooked by the rest of the media. In recent episodes, Oliver has tackled child separation, Saudi Arabia, Brazil’s elections with 20-minute deep-dives packed with enough jokes to keep viewers’ attentions. What’s more, his knack for turning boring topics into viral commentary has actually changed policy.
71. James Goldston
The ABC News chief has enjoyed a great 2018. World News Tonight and Good Morning America are scoring massive ratings, and the network has scored multiple big news-making interviews with the Trumps this year — Don Jr. in September, Melania in October, Ivanka just last week, and the president himself right after the North Korea summit. And, of course, James Comey’s first major interview this year was with ABC News. The View, meanwhile, is enjoying serious success, thanks to a thrilling lineup of hosts that keep things exciting.
70. Harris Faulkner
Harris Faulkner just keeps getting better. Her Fox News show Outnumbered: Overtime at 1 p.m. has scored big interviews, is on top in its time slot (in October she beat her CNN and MSNBC competitors combined), and consistently generates buzzworthy content. She’s able to balance out hard news anchoring with the sort of opinion coverage required on another show she co-hosts, Outnumbered. When 2020 rolls around, her show will definitely be a place to be for hopefuls, campaign spox and surrogates alike. She also happens to be the only black woman with her own daily show on cable news. That’s only relevant because it’s exactly the kind of statistic that other networks might use to criticize Fox News were it the other way around.
69. Bill Maher
Bill Maher, the longtime host of HBO’s political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher, still manages to make headlines almost every week. His HBO show regularly discusses and skewers the biggest news and newsmakers of the week, and holds buzzy panel discussions that bring together commentators from disparate fields. Master of a style dubbed “contrarian chic” by Esquire, Maher does not shy away from controversy, nor controversial guests. That was evidenced by one of his most talked about interviews this year, a conversation with Canadian professor and right-wing internet celebrity Jordan Peterson about political correctness and free speech.
68. Radhika Jones
Late last year, when Radhika Jones succeeded Graydon Carter as the editor of Vanity Fair, his were considered big shoes to fill. Since then it would be fair to ask Graydon who? She has injected fresh life into an old glossy, and done so with the tried and true method of pairing elegant long form writing with urgent scoops from a stable of star reporters — including from media reporter Gabriel Sherman. Writer Emily Jane Fox has arguably become the breakout star over at Condé, bounding from the pages of VF to the studios of MSNBC, breaking news thanks to strong sourcing in Trump World that she parlayed into a bestselling book on the first family. From reports on Michael Cohen to the broader Mueller probe, Fox has become a household name in breaking news. As print hobbles along, Vanity Fair’s influence remains undeniable — in no small part thanks to the new leadership of Jones.
67. Mark Levin
On the political right, Mark Levin is a household name. He was against Trump before he was for him, and for him before he was against him, and he’s been against and for him ever since. But Levin’s influence has never wavered and he recently added hosting a Fox News weekend show — Life, Liberty and Levin — to his resume. As a bombastic talk radio host, he always had a sizable following, and a knack for going viral with his commentary. But with the advent of streaming services, his Levin TV grew into CRTV — which already boasted a large roster of right-wing stars even before the big merger with Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze just this week. The new company will compete not only with major online presences like Daily Caller, Daily Wire, and Breitbart, but with Fox Nation too and Levin is its star both behind the scenes and with mike in hand.
66. Brooke Baldwin
CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin can do it all. Her show, CNN Newsroom, welcomes multi-guest panels, combative back-and-forths with big-name personalities, and informative interviews with key political players. Baldwin has also repeatedly proved her own talents as a journalist are versatile, doling out everything from fiery monologues fact-checking the president, to coverage of Hurricane Michael from a helicopter. The anchor’s ability to grab headlines — especially for Mediaite stories — continued into 2018. Her comments labeling the anti-Kavanaugh protesters a “mob” even managed to spur an entire news cycle — as pundits debated the use of that term.
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