MSNBC Host Joy Reid Joins Newhouse NYC Faculty
By Marisa Ramel
Joy Reid may be known as “AM Joy” to her MSNBC viewers on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but on Wednesday evenings she’s Professor Reid. As the newest faculty member to join Syracuse University’s Newhouse NYC program, Joy is teaching Race, Gender, and the Media–a powerful topic she covers constantly as the host of “AM Joy,” a regular contributor to “Meet the Press,” “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” and “The Rachel Maddow Show,” and even as a special guest last week on “The Daily Show.”
Passionate and driven, Joy has contributed to almost every type of media. She writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast and is the author of two books, We Are the Change We Seek: the Speeches of Barack Obama (Bloomsbury, 2017) and Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide (William Morrow, 2015). Prior to joining MSNBC, she was the host of “The Reid Report,” and managing editor of theGrio.com, a daily online news site devoted to stories that reflect and affect African-American audiences. Joy even helped with press during the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns.
Here, Joy discusses her new teaching gig, challenges facing the media in the digital age and especially in the Trump administration, and what she hopes her students will come away with by the end of the semester.
How is the class going, and what are the main highlights?
My first-ever class! The students seem really engaged, they ask great questions, they’re a really smart group. They liked the final project, which is good. It’s a Humans of New York, so they have to take a photo of one, two, three, or four people, and then they write a Humans of New York caption of them. The goal is to step outside of their own racial group or gender group, and do a Humans of New York about someone who is not like them.
What have you learned on the job that you hope to impart to the class?
One of the things that I’ve learned from being in the media a long time that I hope to impart to these students is that there actually are objective facts, and the media’s job is to find them. Especially now because we’re going into a very strange time in terms of the incoming administration, which is unlike any administration we’ve had, in terms of its looseness with fact and its misuse of fact and the truth. The media isn’t set up to deal with it. And I think if we’re going to safeguard our future for the next generation of students, we actually have to develop a little more backbone about finding a real fact, being fair about trying to find it, and then being emphatic that a fact’s a fact.
What do you hope the students come away with by the end of the semester?
Where you grow up and how you grow up can insulate you in a lot of ways from the experiences of other people. And one of the great things about college is it does expose you to people from different regions, from different backgrounds that you might not have ever met in your own town. It’s one of the best things about college.
I remember the experience of somebody when I started my freshman year of Harvard saying, “Can I touch your hair?” And I was like, “No you can’t touch my hair! You can’t pet me, I’m not a dog.” But it’s a big country, right? And people grow up in a town and sometimes they really have a town where everyone is like that. It is what it is. That’s why college is important. And so what we want to do is take that inexperience and concentrate it a little more, so that students think more critically across racial and gender and other lines.
What inspired you to take this next step in your career?
My mother was a college professor at the University of Northern Colorado. It’s funny because she was always telling me to do something else (she wanted me to be a doctor!). But I’m inspired because she was really my personal hero.
I’ve also done a lot of talks and lectures in colleges for students over the last two years, and I just find it inspiring. I think this is one of the most dynamic generations that we’ve ever had in terms of their command of technology. But they also don’t have the advantage of some of the things that we had. We used to read a newspaper every morning. We had a common set of believable facts on the ground that we could all trust in. We trusted that when something was coming over the evening news, it was real, it wasn’t a conspiracy. They have access to all the information, and they also have the ability to have manipulated information shoved at them 24/7.
One thing you wish you knew when you were starting out in your career?
I wish I had been more open to the idea of networking. I hated the idea. And I think for young people the idea of networking has a bad name. But it’s really a huge advantage if you realize it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. It’s who remembers your name, and remembers meeting you, and remembers you that matters a lot.
Walk us through a day in the life of Joy.
I get up as early as I can stand, and I’ll have maybe a radio call-in [that I take] in the car on my way to work. Then we’ll do show prep with my “AM Joy” team. I’ll work with them throughout the day, and also work on my Daily Beast column that’s due every Friday. I’ll do prime time guest spots for MSNBC maybe three nights a week [on “All In with Chris Hayes,” “The Rachel Maddow Show,” or “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”], so I do a lot of research and reading for that.
And then Saturdays and Sundays we do the [“AM Joy”] show. My car comes to get me at 7:15am, which is brutal! After the Saturday show, we do show prep for the Sunday show. And show prep really just means we meet on Wednesdays, we decide what we want in the show, the producers go off and start writing and producing the segments, and then I go back in and edit the scripts and tweak them, and then we actually do the show Saturdays and Sundays. And then we just prepare to do it all again!
Hidden talent that might surprise your students?
My hidden talent is probably my nerdy Snapchat videos. I dunno, is that a talent?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photo credit: MSNBC