Behind-the-Scenes @MSNBC @MHPshow

Have you ever wondered what is like behind-the-scenes when you are on a national television show? My first visit to MSNBC was in 2012. I had given interviews about various education policy topics on on local and national radio, but I had never participated LIVE on a national TV network. I was really nervous. Live TV is difficult because you have no idea what questions will be asked, although you usually have a general idea which direction the discussion will go— more on this later in the post. Well, suffice to say that my first experience on national TV was an eventful visit. Jonathan Alter, then the editor at Newsweek, head popped off when I started talking about my research published in the Berkeley Review of Education showing that 40% of African American students had left KIPP charter schools before graduating. (See the post Melissa Harris-Perry Show: Demanding accountability from charters)


The behind-the-scenes backstory that most people don’t know is that my disagreements with Jonathan Alter’s “reformer” perspectives had started backstage where I had told him that most of the information that he was providing in his media interviews about education was wrong. It just went forward from there on live TV. During the commercial break we also had a very vigorous discussion that was never seen on live TV. I believe you can see how the discussion was going during the break from this photo.


Incidentally, this was the first time I met Lily Eskelson. Before the show, she asked me in the Green room,

Are you on my team or not?

My next visit to MSNBC in 2104 was somewhat less eventful. The MHP producer asked me to come on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education to discuss segregation. (See Discussing Brown v. Board on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry) At the end of the show I commented that what we used to call discrimination, we now call civil rights. Watch the short clip below.

The behind-the-scenes moment of that visit occurred when the show finished. As soon as the cameras stopped rolling, MHP dropped a bomb in her post-show comment. However, I can’t blog MHP’s comment because it was so intense, so next time you see me, ask me and I’ll tell you.

Then last Wednesday I received a call from the MHP producer. She asked if I was potentially available to go to New York to tape the Sunday 11.29.15 show on MSNBC and discuss the current student social protest movement on college campuses. I agreed.

The first behind-the-scenes challenge for me was that I was on the road for Thanksgiving. I was traveling light, only a small army style backpack because I had thought I would save a little money by flying Spirit Airlines— who charges you $$$ for everything but breathing and a backpack that fits under the seat in front of you. When I arrived in New York I had to head to H&M on 5th avenue for something to wear on the show— this explains my very average wardrobe on Sunday.

Now that I had purchased something to wear, I had to prepare for the show. The producer usually provides a syllabus for the show. The syllabus for the panelist provided by the producer is divided into the five segments for the one hour show. I spent about four hours reading through all the background information that the show provided and then prepared notes on potential responses.

If you would like to see my notes for the show you can click here.

So you generally know what’s going to come at you during the show. However, as I mentioned to one of the other professors in the green room, you have no idea really what Melissa is going to ask you live. For example, the first question caught me off guard because it was somewhat different from the syllabus topic for segment one. My feeling during the conversation was that Melissa was skeptical of the connection between protests. So the intention in my comments was to express that these movements can be allied. I talked about our recent faculty protest in Long Beach and that students, food service workers, firemen and many others were shoulder to shoulder with us. Here is a photo that I took during our protest a few weeks ago.


One of the most interesting parts of this particular visit to MSNBC was that Melissa Harris Perry was really fired up in her conversations during the commercial breaks. This was different than my past visits. The conversation was still intense and insightful even as the producers were counting down in seconds before the cameras were going to go live again.

Many folks have asked for link to the entire program. Unfortunately, MSNBC only provides short clips of segments for many of their shows instead of the full episode. However, if you’d like to watch all five segments of the show, here it is.

To conclude, here are a few photos from behind-the-scenes. Talk to you again soon here at Cloaking Inequity.

p.s. Also check out Huff Post’s How ‘Melissa Harris-Perry’ Beat Out The Other Sunday News Shows On Diversity

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