It’s been a memorable 2019 in the world of news media and politics that we here at Mediaite cover on a daily basis. While assembling this list, it became clear to our team that so many media personalities not only reported on the biggest events of the year, they helped shape them. You’ll notice cable news features prominently in these rankings. That’s not just because it’s the medium dearest to our heart. In the Trump era, cable news is a central character, the prism through which the news is so often seen. 2019 was also a year in which the law was a fixation of media coverage, thanks to the polarizing conclusion of the Russia investigation and an international scandal that will likely result in the president’s impeachment (this week, we should note).
In our judgment, 75 industry figures stood out in 2019 in terms of the influence they wielded. Our criteria was comprehensive but also subjective. Some metrics, such as ratings, social media reach, and time-slot placement are easily measurable. Other factors, like gravitas, proximity to power, and influence of one’s audience, are more abstract. While harder to decipher, these latter variables figure prominently in our rankings.
Here, we rank the anchors, pundits, reporters, editors, executives, writers, late night comics and others who demonstrated they have the most clout in the world we hold dear. Once again, this list is released in conjunction with our annual party celebrating the year in news media.
Without further ado, the staff of Mediaite is proud to share its 2019 selections for the Most Influential in News Media — presented by History.
This list was written by Tamar Auber, Tommy Christopher, Joe DePaolo, Caleb Ecarma, Colby Hall, Caleb Howe, Josh Feldman, Connor Mannion, Aidan McLaughlin, Ken Meyer, Charlie Nash and Reed Richardson.
75. Laura Coates
In a year of news intensely focused on the law, budding star Laura Coates got the chance in 2019 to show CNN’s audience that she can do more than just offer sharp-eyed legal analysis on an eight-person mega-panel. Though she has only been with the network for three years, in late June she made her debut in the anchor chair, filling in for CNN’s Don Lemon — which she has by now been doing fairly regularly. Many have speculated that The George Washington University law professor may take over the 11 p.m. hour to both give Lemon a break (everyone else in prime time is doing one hour) and to shepherd CNN viewers through the often byzantine and legally-convoluted Trump impeachment storyline.
74. Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor of Crooked Media
Few podcasts have been as influential in the Trump era as Pod Save America. What started as a weekly “no bullshit” chat between Obama administration alumni Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, guiding jittery liberals through the 2016 election, has grown into a sizable media company, dubbed Crooked Media, guiding terrified liberals through the Trump era. The Obama Bros are now Pod Bros, with an HBO partnership and a massive audience flocking to not only their flagship show — Pod Save America — but also successful projects like Pod Save the World, Hysteria, and This Land.
73. Julie K. Brown
Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald can single-handedly take credit for shining a light on the horrific but vital story of Jeffrey Epstein. The investigative journalist’s work, which dropped in a series of reports in late 2018, blew the lid off the underaged sex ring run by the well-connected financier. Brown’s investigation, which she worked on for years, exposed a lenient plea deal Epstein was granted by a prosecutor (who would go on to serve in the Trump administration) and culminated in Epstein’s 2019 arrest for sex trafficking. Her reporting forced the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and the ostracizing of Prince Andrew of England. It also happened to be one of the biggest news stories of the year, only growing in relevance after Epstein took his own life in a Manhattan jail cell as he awaited trial.
72. Jay Sures
Unlike many on this list, you will not see Jay Sures on the big screen or read his byline. His influence is in getting the household names in news to where they are. He is the most influential agent in the news world representing some of TV’s biggest talents. Put aside the actors, directors and producers he works with as co-president of the United Talent Agency in Los Angeles, it’s his news business clientele that we care about — including Norah O’Donnell, Bret Baier, Don Lemon, Brian Kilmeade, David Muir, Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper, Kate Snow (and in the spirit of full disclosure, the owner of this site Dan Abrams) to name just a few.
71. Willie Geist
Willie Geist is widely known as the sharp — and often hilarious — third host of Morning Joe, but he boosted his reputation as the consummate newscaster this year as the host of the Today show’s Sunday iteration. On weekday mornings Geist is a welcome moderating force between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, in a position that requires him to deliver frank assessments of President Trump’s administration just as much as challenges to Democrats like Congressman Joaquin Castro. His gig on Today allows for in-depth conversations with artists and celebrities that don’t get coverage on MSNBC’s politically-focused morning show. Geist is one of those rare talents who seems equally comfortable at a political roundtable and on the set of a lighter fare morning show.
70. Eric Bolling
While he took a career break in 2017 after exiting Fox News over a harassment allegation and losing his son to a fentanyl overdose, two years later, Eric Bolling has fully returned to the industry — albeit, outside of cable news. Bolling’s relatively new program, America This Week, is a Sunday politics show that airs on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s nearly 200 affiliated stations in local markets across the country. Bolling, who also hosts a weekday program for Blaze Media, books big-name guests that one would expect to see on Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press, including numerous one-on-one interviews with President Trump, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and Rudy Giuliani. His interviews make headlines, and his show gets ratings that top cable news, a fact that he isn’t afraid to crow about. Bolling is back.
69. Olivia Nuzzi
Olivia Nuzzi, the young Washington correspondent for New York magazine, churned out must-read reports peeling back the curtain on the Trump White House throughout 2019. Her profiles of Democratic candidates Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden, which paired juicy insider info with brutally honest appraisals of their shortcomings, both made the front page of New York. Even when Nuzzi’s reports were buried inside the mag, they went viral online. This year, Nuzzi took us inside the Trump campaign’s wild “Witch Hunt” Halloween party in Manheim, Pennsylvania, as well as the mind of Mark Sanford as he fantasizes about a successful Republican primary challenge to Trump. If you want detailed insights into White House policy, read Maggie Haberman. If you want “A Reporter’s Guide to Texting With Rudy Giuliani,” few reporters in D.C. do it better than Nuzzi. In this era, both are indispensable.
68. John Oliver
John Oliver’s wildly popular HBO program Last Week Tonight dives into topics that many major news organizations recoil from covering — like medical debt and the energy industry. With the help of HBO’s pocketbook, research teams suited for the Washington Post and a wit rivaling any of his fellow Daily Show alums, Oliver brings a light but thorough touch to issues that often go overlooked. Viewers tune in to laugh, but also to get hit with a heady dose of investigative journalism — making Last Week Tonight something of a unicorn in its lane. Oliver has even been sued for his efforts covering the coal industry, and hilariously (and righteously) celebrated his victory over the baron who targeted him for doing the work required of the best figures in media – among which Oliver remains without a doubt.
67. Ben Smith
Ben Smith has grown a well-funded but playful site known for lists into one of the biggest scoop powerhouses around since he took over BuzzFeed News in 2011. Even relatively small scoops, like publishing an angry text message from a Kamala Harris aide to a BuzzFeed News reporter complaining about minor criticism of the candidate, had the power to drive the 2020 conversation. And election season shows off what Ben Smith does best: covering political campaigns. Smith’s new newsletter, The Stakes 2020, has emerged as a must read for anyone fascinated with the upcoming election, and the text exchanges with various candidates have proved a hit — revealing a side to our would-be presidents that only BuzzFeed can bring out. Under Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News continues to compete with prestige publications for quality investigative journalism and lengthy profiles — but also daily news that keeps a younger audience informed.
66. Porter Berry and Meredith Artley
Cable television may get all the attention, but there is a quieter numbers race going down between CNN and Fox News online. They may not be as public facing as Sean Hannity or Chris Cuomo, but the top editors of these respective websites have grown their operations into the two biggest news sites on the internet. Under CNN.com Editor-in-Chief Meredith Artley, who oversees an almost unrivaled digital reporting operation, the network’s sites have seen unbelievable traffic levels – boasting a whopping global audience of more than 300 million uniques in October of this year. Meanwhile, Fox News EIC Porter Berry — a veteran producer of Fox News opinion programming — has grown his site significantly in just a few years. Though the site still lags behind CNN’s massive reach, Fox is right on CNN’s tail: it reached its highest traffic ever in 2019, regularly surpassing 100 million uniques in a month. Bottom line, more people get their news on the internet than from watching cable news and these two are deciding what you see.
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