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Moyers, Moore and Maddow are the Most Influential Progressives

Recently we asked our readers to rank the most influential progressives. Here are the results.
 
 
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The three M's -- Bill Moyers, Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow -- scored highest in a recent AlterNet survey * asking more than 5,000 readers to rate the most influential progressive media figures. Moyers, who scored 67.5, and Moore, with a 66.2 score, were very close. Maddow was a tad behind at 63.5.

It's no surprise that Moyers, the moral sage, and Moore, the rabble-rouser, are ranked at the top. They have been popular with AlterNet readers for years. Moyers' current show, "Bill Moyers' Journal," gets at the heart of our many social ills with long-form exploration and probing interviews. Recently, Moyers spent an episode on the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam tapes, drawing a connection to Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan. The show was a television masterpiece.

Moore built his popularity with the astoundingly successful 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which remains the highest-grossing documentary of all time, taking in over $200 million worldwide, including U.S. box office revenue of almost $120 million. Bowling for Columbine, released in 2002, took in more than $58 million while Sicko (2007) brought in $36 million. The $14 mill pulled in by Moore's most recent film, Capitalism: A Love Story, is a large drop-off, and must be seen as a disappointment.

Moore also had the highest recognition score in the survey at 98.4 percent -- quite a feat for the former editor of the Flint, Michigan alternative weekly The Flint Voice. Moyers was next at 96.4, followed by Arianna Huffington at 95.6.

But the big story in the survey is Rachel Maddow. For her to leapfrog legends like Noam Chomsky, Arianna Huffington and Amy Goodman -- longtime media mainstays -- is a huge accomplishment. Maddow's success demonstrates that brains and savvy have a place on cable TV, amidst the name-calling that sometimes passes for dialogue. And it indicates that progressives will follow the right talent to corporate media, which may encourage mainstream media outlets to hire more progressives. 

Noam Chomsky, still the left's leading intellectual, placed fourth at 57.6, followed by Paul Krugman at 53.4. Krugman's incisive column in the New York Times has been a must-read for several years among a broad swath of liberals and progressives. The sixth-place slot was taken by Maddow's MSNBC cohort, Keith Olbermann (51.7), whose bombastic style, while certainly different than Rachel's, clearly has its fans.

Next in line, and finishing off the top 10, were Amy Goodman (49.7), Arianna Huffington (49.4), Naomi Klein (47.7), and former Labor Secretary and Berkeley professor Robert Reich (31.1).

A number of the most influential people on the list are able to use their exposure on corporate or public television in order to enhance their brand. Consequently voters may feel that their ability to reach wider audiences beyond the traditional progressive core makes these prominent progressives more influential. It's also interesting that, while the Internet has broadened the audience for all the media types in the top 10, none of them, with the possible exception of Huffington, can be seen as primarily a product of the Internet era. And even Huffington was well known as an author and television personality before she created The Huffington Post.

In fact, you have to slide down to numbers 19 and 20 on the list -- blogger Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos, and Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com's super blogger -- to find the first Internet-created stars. One possible explanation for this is that the AlterNet audience, like audiences for virtually all high-traffic Web sites, magazines and blogs, is majority white, male and boomer-leaning, and consequently less influenced by the Internet, and more by a range of media, including the New York Times, books and television. (Interestingly, Moulitsas and Glenn Greenwald had relatively low recognition scores at 59.1 and 61.1, respectively.)

 
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