Donald Trump as the loudmouth uncle at the table is changing the game this year for the big players behind New York’s tabloid covers, Twitter trends and good, old-fashioned TV as they duke it out for best political coverage and overall influence on THR’s annual list.
Media in 2016, much like the political scene it covers, is a story of stalwarts and upstarts. This year, the call for change was felt in TV (Lester Holt, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah), online (Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner's Lenny Letter, John Oliver's viral investigative comedy) and in politics (Hillary Clinton, are you listening?).
And while the collective narrative long ago predicted that TV news would be swamped by the glut of digital offerings, record-breaking ratings for the presidential debates and campaign coverage prove that TV still matters — a lot — and on the small screen, big personalities dominate (see the ongoing saga of Donald Trump's tussle with Megyn Kelly).
Amid the reds and blues, THR's sixth annual list of the press' most potent voices salutes the anchors, executives and iconoclasts who interpret the popular angst and anger, and reveals their unique perspective on what matters in media, what defines a New Yorker and what really makes America great.
Reported by Seth Abramovitch, Eriq Gardner, Merle Ginsberg, Marisa Guthrie, Natalie Jarvey, Andy Lewis, Michael O'Connell, Ryan Parker, Lacey Rose, Bryn Elise Sandberg and Tatiana Siegel
WHY HE MATTERS Fox News, the No. 1 cable news network for more than a decade, now also boasts the most watched primary debate ever, with 24 million tuning in for August's first Republican face-off. Even Donald Trump, who likes to claim credit for the primary season's record debate ratings, can't get by without it — since declaring his candidacy, he's made more than 150 appearances. Fox News also is the most profitable asset in Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox portfolio, with 73 straight quarters of growth and a valuation that exceeds $15 billion. Ailes, 75 and a married father of a teenage son (Zac), signed a new three-year deal in the summer.
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "Most days I have a lot of fun in my job."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "High taxes."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "Ronald Reagan, so people would ask him questions about Republicans and leave me alone."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT "I like Pizza Rat. I never hold anything against a guy who's hungry. As far as encounters with objectionable creatures, a few agents fit the bill."
WHY THEY MATTER Under Angelo (pictured), 42, Rupert Murdoch's U.S.-based tabloid fiefdom averaged 39 million monthly page views in late 2015, up 10 million from the previous year. Print woes persist: A Chicago edition launched in September and folded three months later. But despite losses, the Post still wields daily influence over the city's power centers: politics, media and Wall Street. The jewel in the crown remains the 39-year-old Page Six, overseen by Allan, 63.
DREAM INTERVIEW Angelo: "[New York Post founder] Alexander Hamilton — the real one."
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT Angelo: "Backgammon NJHD — yes, I'm totally addicted."
IF I COULD EVICT ONE PERSON FROM NEW YORK Angelo: "You can't evict anyone from New York — we take in everybody! But I'd like to evict the current tenant of Gracie Mansion."
WHY HE MATTERS The most prestigious paper in the world, with the ability to direct political and social conversation, the Times is in the midst of its own transformation. With print subscriptions and advertising falling, and with the digital footprint headed north (now up to 1.1 million in digital-only subscribers compared with just over 600,000 for the daily print edition, according to the Alliance for Audited Media), Baquet, 59, ordered a newsroom strategy review in February that, as he wrote in a memo, will determine "how to apply our timeless values to a new age." Restructuring is part of the plan, but the paper also has stretched into new endeavors, including a well-regarded foray into virtual reality.
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "My wife, Dylan Landis, is a writer, so I hardly ever read non-fiction. I read novels. Oh yeah, and I'm a college dropout."
DREAM INTERVIEW "I had it already: lunch with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was tongue-tied and babbling."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Dylan and I spend many weekends in art galleries."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "Bernie Sanders. So I can explain that we are not biased against him."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT "It was in New Orleans not New York. My father shot a giant rat in the back of our bar when I was a kid."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "Hamburger at the NoMad Bar in Chelsea."
WHY SHE MATTERS As the lone female in a late-night landscape packed with (mostly white) men, the Daily Show alum and 46-year-old mother of three — who has paid a visit to a Syrian refugee camp and accidentally murdered Gloria Steinem in a skit — already has distinguished herself. Since a bullish Turner debuted Full Frontal across its cable portfolio Feb. 8 — and recently ordered 26 additional episodes —the Monday-night TBS series has outrated lead-out Conan O'Brien by 55 percent. Her fledgling YouTube channel has scored 30 million views.
UBER, CAB, SUBWAY OR WALK? "High heels are dead to me. I walk everywhere."
HOURS I SLEEP EACH NIGHT "I normally get around seven hours, but I'm up at 5 every day, so is it really a win?"
WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING FIRED "The only place I ever really got fired from was an erectile dysfunction clinic. After that I learned to aim higher. Insert joke here."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "Fish tacos at the Mermaid Inn (with extra jalapenos) are perfection."
WHY THEY MATTER In the fall, Peretti said on Facebook that he was making a move (with his wife and twin sons): "BuzzFeed's second largest and fastest-growing team is based in L.A.," he wrote of the company's Motion Pictures division, which sees 3 billion monthly video views (but, uh, no movies yet). But Peretti, 42, often returns to the NYC headquarters of his social news empire, which got a $200 million infusion from NBCUniversal as it grew its monthly audience to 200 million. Smith, 46, also has moved West with his wife and daughters (to Santa Monica, with frequent trips back to Brooklyn) as his attention turns to cable channel Viceland. Vice is valued at $4.2 billion, after a $400 million investment from Disney late in 2015, with employees in more than 30 countries and a daily HBO news show on the way. D.C.-based Bankoff, 47, makes the weekly commute to New York (he's apartment-hunting in the city) as he's established a hub there for Vox, which includes SB Nation, The Verge, Eater and recent addition Re/Code. NBCUniversal invested $200 million in the company as it makes a push into video and grows its audience (170 million monthly uniques).
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME Bankoff: "I was runner-up for the Rick Schroder part in The Champ. Had Dustin Hoffman or Al Pacino been cast in the lead role instead of Jon Voight, they would have gone with the dark-haired kid as his son." Smith: "When I'm at 35,000 feet and watch a movie, sometimes I'll bawl my eyes out. Last time it happened, I was watching The Revenant and it was when Leo sleeps on his dead son."
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT Bankoff: "Waze and Starbucks apps both help me save a bunch of time every day. Slack and Chartbeat help me spend that saved time." Smith: "Instagram."
UBER, CAB, SUBWAY OR WALK? Bankoff: "I plan my schedule around being able to walk as much as possible, even if it means dozens of blocks. I'm a 25K steps a day person."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT Bankoff: "I didn't personally encounter the Pizza Rat, and I wasn't in the office on the day that we noticed a cockroach in our ninth floor urinal of our Bryant Park office, but I would label it an objectionable creature. I am grateful to our New York office manager Becky Rosefelt for not getting pissed off, but acting quickly to debug and also create some killer content." Smith: "I don't do it in winter, but I ride my bike to work sometimes — and I ride through Chinatown. One time, I went through some viscous liquid that would not come off my tire. It actually burnt my tire. I don’t know what the hell is on the streets of Chinatown but it’s pretty toxic.”
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH Bankoff: "Chicken with string beans at Szechuan Gourmet on 39th Street and also spicy rigatoni vodka at Carbone." Smith: "Le Bernardin's langoustine lasagna."
DREAM INTERVIEW Smith: "I'm still waiting on the pope. I'd also like Obama during the last six months of his presidency. I'd like to have a conversation with him on his legacy."
IF I COULD IMPORT ONE PERSON FROM L.A. Smith: "Jiro from Jiro Dreams of Sushi. He's a magician."
WHY HE MATTERS More than 6.5 million people watched Colbert's Late Show debut in September, but as the funnyman has settled into the seat vacated by David Letterman, his audience also has settled to a nightly average of 3 million (a distant second to Jimmy Fallon's 3.8 million). The CBS show got a much-needed boost in its post-Super Bowl slot in February, with guests including President Barack Obama and Will Ferrell attracting an audience of 21.1 million. And Colbert, 51, continues to draw a unique roster of guests — from Bernie Sanders to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel — with his distinctive brand of smart, politically minded humor.
WHY HE MATTERS Cooper, 48, has played an integral part in CNN's campaign coverage, moderating debates and town halls — including the first Democratic debate in October, watched by 15.8 million viewers. Cooper also contributed to CBS' 60 Minutes, starred with his mother in the HBO doc Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper and wrote a joint memoir with her.
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Takeout food. I have never used my kitchen. I have never used the stove. It's kind of a New York thing. I dream one day of learning how to cook."
DREAM INTERVIEW "The people I like to interview are those under circumstances not of their making, beyond their control. Somebody who's trying to live a good and decent life and struggling to move forward in a difficult situation. So it's not somebody famous or well-known."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "I don't want to go to a dinner party; I would much rather binge-watch TV at home than go to a dinner party. I am a social recluse, so going to a dinner party is painful for me."
WHY HE MATTERS After 48 seasons, the Sunday night staple remains the newsmagazine gold standard and a coveted platform for heads of state, cultural influencers and Hollywood's A-list. It was correspondent (and CBS This Morning anchor) Charlie Rose with whom Sean Penn agreed to sit to defend his meeting with Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Mercurial foreign leaders (Vladimir Putin, Iran's Hassan Rouhani), American heads of state (Obama) and those aspiring to become so (Trump) regularly submit to the show's tough questioning. Fager, 61 (only the second executive producer of the show, after its late creator, Don Hewitt), has kept 60 Minutes appointment TV for more than 13 million viewers.
DREAM INTERVIEW "Last year I said Putin and the pope, and we got both, though the pope was just a few minutes. Assuming the wish will come true again: President Xi Jinping."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I walk to work through Lincoln Center."
WHY HE MATTERS The reigning king of late night, who recently re-upped with NBC until 2021, weathered a competitive year to remain on top, averaging 3.8 million viewers and consistently besting newcomer Stephen Colbert and longtime rival Jimmy Kimmel in all key demos. The 41-year-old also continues to dominate on digital, surpassing 10 million subscribers on YouTube in February with segments including "Wheel of Musical Impressions Featuring Ariana Grande," which has notched more than 90 million views across YouTube and Facebook. The Spike spinoff of Fallon's "Lip Sync Battle" segment has spawned adaptations in seven countries and has been renewed for a third season at home.
WHY THEY MATTER The ABC News team — Goldston, 47; Cibrowski, 48; and Fedida, 48 — might have lost their grip on Good Morning America's three-year reign atop Today in the key 25-to-54 demo, but the morning flagship still leads by an average 257,000 total viewers this season. World News Tonight is enjoying its largest audience in nearly a decade; David Muir comes in just shy of NBC's dominant Nightly News with an average 8.9 million viewers every night. And ABC News booked two of the scant noncable debates early in the presidential campaign, scoring an audience of 13.2 million with February's GOP showdown.
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME Goldston: "I spent my childhood working as a film extra." Cibrowski: "I would love to work for an airline." Fedida: "My dream job is to work at the Magic Kingdom."
DREAM INTERVIEW Goldston: "The queen." Cibrowski: "Steve Jobs. RIP." Fedida: "Peter Jennings — just one more time."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT Cibrowski: "The pigeon couple outside my office window." Fedida: "Even pizza rat had his own charm and charisma."
"Anchoring is neat, but it’s not oxygen for me," says Lester Holt, sitting behind his desk at NBC News at Rockefeller Center. It is early March, a week after Super Tuesday, when the 57-year-old, in one of his typical marathons, was on the air nearly continuously from 6:30 p.m. until 2 a.m. And it is nearly 13 months to the day after Brian Williams, his predecessor at Nightly News, ceded the chair in the wake of a scandal that all but blew up the news division.
Ironically, Holt’s ascension came just as he was considering scaling back his duties. He had talked to NBC News president Deborah Turness and then-group chief Pat Fili-Krushel about his demanding workload, which included anchoring for more than a decade the weekend editions of Today and Nightly News and serving as primary anchor of Dateline. "That’s a pretty good little lineup there," he reasons. "It allowed me to be compensated well. I had much of the stature of the other anchors here, but I thought it’s not the brass ring. So it wasn’t that I had settled, but it was a recognition that, you know, you’ve been spending so much time climbing up the ladder, maybe you need to stop on the rung you’re on and look out and enjoy the view."
Read more on Lester Holt here.
WHY SHE MATTERS More people are watching Kelly's Fox News program (2.5 million of them) than anything else on ad-supported cable at 9 p.m. And The Kelly File is No. 2 in all of cable news behind only Bill O'Reilly's 8 p.m. hour. This year, she also has emerged as one of the toughest debate moderators in a volatile primary season. Just ask Donald Trump. But the 45-year-old mother of three young children has not let Trump's attacks rattle her, vowing that she will do her job "without fear or favor."
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "I write poems. They aren't very good, and, yes, they do rhyme. I've been doing it since I was a kid. I could've been an excellent rapper."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I sometimes meet my husband or a friend for a cocktail or snack at midnight after my show. New York has plenty of options available, even at that hour. [Fox News weathercaster] Janice Dean and I have struck up a friendship with two late-shift waiters at Del Frisco's, next to Fox [headquarters] — and we now follow their acting careers on television."
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT "Family Feud 2 & Friends — my husband and I play it with our kids, and it's awesome."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "Judge Judy. Don't you feel like she could help solve any problem?"
DONALD TRUMP IS… "Complicated."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT "Refrigerator rat, who was even scarier than Pizza Rat because he was "mine."
IF I COULD IMPORT ONE PERSON FROM L.A. "Elizabeth Banks. I met her recently and found her to be quite charming. Smart, funny, a mom, great husband - she was firing on all cylinders."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "Antonucci Cafe - the meatball appetizer."
WHY HE MATTERS In April 2015, Lack inherited a news organization in crisis. Rocked by the Brian Williams scandal, foundering ratings at MSNBC and a series of messy public personnel moves (the jettisoning of former Meet the Press host David Gregory and the bumpy 78-day tenure of former ESPN exec Jamie Horowitz), NBC News was at a morale nadir. "It was rough," admits Lack, 68. A year later, Lester Holt has restored calm and respectability to Nightly News, while NBC News president Deborah Turness continues to stress breaking news and high-profile bookings. Williams now is a regular presence on MSNBC, where a pivot to breaking news during the daytime hours overseen by MSNBC chief Phil Griffin is slowly paying off; dayside ratings are up 166 percent among viewers 25-to-54, the target audience.
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT Waze
WHY THEY MATTER After nearly 20 years as the face of Today, Lauer, 58, proved in November he's still a key player when he scored an exclusive interview with Charlie Sheen in which the actor publicly revealed his HIV-positive status; 5.5 million viewers watched the broadcast that morning. The 44-year-old Guthrie's Washington bona fides (she was NBC's White House correspondent until 2011) have helped drive Today's strong election coverage, lifting the morning staple to No. 1 in the critical 25-to-54 demographic this season with an average of 4.8 million viewers in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Kotb, 51, who co-hosts Today's frothy fourth hour with Kathie Lee Gifford, often fills in on the flagship, and soon will head to Rio to cover the Olympics for NBC Sports.
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME Lauer: "I love the show Wicked Tuna." Kotb: "I got rejected 27 times before I got my first job."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE Lauer: "Living and dying with the Yankees." Guthrie: "Talking about how great Hamilton is."
IF I COULD EVICT ONE PERSON FROM NEW YORK Lauer: "Anyone who litters." Guthrie: "Can I evict a smell instead? I'd like to evict the smell of urine."
IF I COULD IMPORT ONE PERSON FROM L.A. Lauer: "Matt Damon — he classes up the joint. He needs to come back." Kotb: "The staff at the Peninsula hotel!"
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT Guthrie: Seamless
WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING FIRED Kotb: "Never give away free ice cream when the store owner is sitting in the parking lot watching."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH Lauer: "Burger at the bar at Donohue's." Kotb: "Flex Mussels — the Thai! And the salted caramel donuts for dessert."
WHY THEY MATTER New York's network sports pashas run empires that stretch from Oakland (home of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, ESPN) to London (Premier League Football, NBC) to Augusta (The Masters, CBS) to Rio (Olympics, NBC) and even to tiny Williamsport, Pa. (Little League World Series, ESPN). And they control the one format that keeps cords from being cut: live sports programming (in 2015, NBC'S Sunday Night Football attracted the most viewers for primetime football in 20 years, and ESPN was the most watched cable net). Amid the successes — NBC just crossed the $1 billion mark in Olympic ad sales (four months earlier than in 2012) and McManus, 61, had the highest-rated non-Super Bowl game with the Denver-New England AFC Championship — there have been some storm clouds: After the loss of about 7 million subscribers in two years, Skipper, 60, has had to manage the transition from high-profile talent, notably Bill Simmons with his website Grantland. And the Zika virus and unready facilities could mar the Summer Olympics for NBC. But with a record amount of live coverage, Lazarus, 52, says the challenge "is making sure viewers know where to find the content they seek."
THE SPORT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN I'M GOOD AT Lazarus: "I am good at spinning (Peloton); I am terrible at paddleboarding." McManus: "I'm a better tennis player than most people would think, and my golf game fluctuates between perfectly respectable to not ready for primetime, often from shot to shot." Skipper: "At this stage in my life, people are surprised to find I am mobile and occasionally agile."
WHY SHE MATTERS As the evening complement to MSNBC's Morning Joe, her show is the network's other destination for high-profile politicians (Maddow nabbed the first Hillary Clinton interview following her 11-hour Benghazi hearing). Maddow, 43, also leads MSNBC's primetime political coverage alongside Brian Williams and Chris Matthews. And she was among the first national anchors to focus on the water crisis in Flint, Mich., hosting a town hall, American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint, on Jan. 27. In February, her show topped CNN in total viewers and those in the 25-to-54 demo on non-debate nights. In the key 25-to-54 demo, it surged 91 percent for the month and outpaced CNN (273,000 vs. 235,000).
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "I work out at the gym to a soundtrack of pure downbeat sad make-you-cry country songs."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Compulsive jaywalking."
WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING FIRED "Do what you’re good at, not what you’re bad at. I was the world’s least handy handyman and deserved to be fired."
DREAM INTERVIEW "Any member of the Cheney family."
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT "Embark NYC. I have the sense of direction of a fruit fly."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT "When my older dog was a puppy, I was walking him. I thought a string of drool was hanging out of his mouth. I went to wipe it, and it was a baby rat's tail hanging out of his mouth. And it was alive."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "John’s Pizza on Bleecker Street. Mushroom, olive, onion."
WHY HE MATTERS Two years into his hosting gig, Meyers, 42, hit his stride in August when he shifted his monologue from an awkward stand-up to a place he's much more comfortable: behind the desk. His wit and political acuity have made the former Saturday Night Live head writer one of the go-to late-night voices this election season and prompted NBC to extend his contract through February 2021. Late Night's YouTube views have nearly tripled compared with last year, and the series consistently beats James Corden's The Late Late Show in viewers by nearly 30 percent.
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "Lin-Manuel Miranda, to ask for Hamilton tickets."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT "I saw a cockroach lay his coat over a puddle for a woman to walk over."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I end every sentence with 'fuggedaboutit.' "
WHY HE MATTERS He oversees more than 11 hours of late-night fare most weeks with Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers, each the No. 1 late-night offering in its respective time slot. Michaels, 71, still is able to make SNL a crucial campaign stop 41 seasons in, with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders stopping by; and by moving Meyers behind the desk, Late Night now is dominating the late-night political conversation. But it is The Tonight Show's current streak that perhaps is most impressive, with Fallon regularly trouncing his competition with nearly 4 million nightly viewers. On the side, the Canadian-born comedy veteran, who is married with three children, picked up producing credits on a cadre of other projects from former SNL finds, including Tina Fey's film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Meyers' Documentary Now! on IFC.
WHY HE MATTERS The unhurried weekend staple features a who's who of A-list voices, from Steve Martin and Savion Glover to Brie Larson, Gwen Stefani and Maggie Smith. With a roster of seasoned correspondents (Lee Cowan, Tracy Smith, Jane Pauley, Bill Geist, Mo Rocca) and 6 million viewers a week, the show is the envy of competitors — and gives John Dickerson's Face the Nation a huge lead-in. Morrison, 66, this year is most proud of the March 13 broadcast that was devoted entirely to America's gun culture.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING FIRED "I was a complete failure as a messenger for a downtown bank when I was in high school; it was just so boring! I learned that I have an unfortunately limited attention span — and to do something that I love, which I do."
DREAM INTERVIEW "Woody Allen."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "Hot dog at Gray's Papaya (yes, really)."
WHY HE MATTERS Since Muir, 42, took the ABC anchor chair in September 2014, World News Tonight has enjoyed its best ratings in more than a decade, adding nearly 600,000 viewers per night. The program ranked No. 1 in total viewers several weeks this season and is gaining ground on NBC, marking its smallest gap with Nightly News in eight years. Muir scored major interviews including Pope Francis in a town hall event, Apple's Tim Cook weighing in on the FBI's quest to unlock the iPhone and Hillary Clinton offering her first mea culpa for her email transgressions. The Syracuse, N.Y., native, who began interning at age 12 at a hometown station, moderated the Dec. 19 Democratic debate in New Hampshire and the Republican showdown on Feb. 6 with Martha Raddatz (featuring the infamous Marco Rubio robot moment).
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "I come to work in jeans and a sweatshirt every day. I will likely be wearing jeans from the waist down behind the desk at 6:30 unless the director has me standing."
DREAM INTERVIEW "The next get."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "The truffled mac and cheese at The Waverly Inn."
UBER, CAB, SUBWAY OR WALK? "I take the subway every single day and even a rodent carrying pizza will not keep me away from the subway. It's the best way to get around NYC. One night I looked up, and a guy says, 'Are you … ?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'So, what happened today?' So I essentially did the newscast again for him sitting on the subway."
WHY THEY MATTER Many coveted Jon Stewart's Daily Show seat, but few could have envied Noah when he signed on as host in September 2015 with an election year breathing down his neck. While it has been an uphill battle (ratings took an abrupt 38 percent tumble), Noah, 32, has earned an audience and has become a go-to for politicos looking to ditch talking points (witness Sen. Lindsey Graham's recent doomsday prognosis for a Trump nomination). Wilmore, 54, has seen a steep ratings drop compared with previous time-slot occupant Stephen Colbert, but he continues to lead late night's diversity conversation — his regular segment "Blacklash 2016: The Unblackening" offers a bracing take on Donald Trump's war on multiculturalism. He'll host President Obama's final White House Correspondents' dinner April 30.
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT Noah: "The rats are cute! Rats are my vibe. I'm from South Africa. It's hard to disgust me with any creatures. I'm more disgusted by the extreme food wastage I see in the city."
WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING FIRED Noah: "Don’t work for your mom."
DREAM INTERVIEW Noah: "God. I have so many questions and I’d love to explore God's design choices."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH Noah: "Pasta from Babbo. Any pasta."
WHY HE MATTERS In February, Oliver, 38, devoted nearly 22 minutes of his half-hour HBO show to a takedown of Donald Trump that included the call to action #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain. The hashtag quickly began trending on Twitter (with 470,000 tweets in one week), and the segment has since been viewed more than 22 million times on YouTube. Each episode draws an average gross audience of 4.6 million viewers. But the viral nature of Oliver's show — every clip from season three on YouTube has surpassed 1.5 million views — keeps his topical segments relevant in the week between new episodes.
DREAM INTERVIEW "The Queen. I'd like to ask her what the point of her is."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "Maybe Putin. I like to eat in excruciatingly tense silence."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT "I once saw a dog running through the park with a rat in its mouth. The rat had half a bagel in its mouth. It was either cute or horrifying."
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "As a British person, I think I'm at the very least 65,111,143rd in line to the throne."
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT "I don’t want to come off like Bear Grylls, but I’m pretty sure I could survive without apps."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "Pizza, wrestled from a tenacious rat's mouth."
WHY HE MATTERS As Donald Trump continues to hammer away at O'Reilly's colleague-slash-rival Megyn Kelly, the 66-year-old Fox News talking head finds himself in the unusual position of playing peace broker: He tried and failed to lure Trump back to the network's second GOP debate. The controversy has resulted in even bigger numbers for the No. 1 man in cable news for 16 years. The O'Reilly Factor has been averaging 3.3 million viewers in 2016 — up 17 percent over the year prior — and now is in the middle of its highest-rated quarter since 2012.
DONALD TRUMP IS … "A man on a mission. Where that goes is one of the most fascinating stories ever."
IF I COULD EVICT ONE PERSON FROM NYC "Mayor de Blasio. Havana needs him more."
DREAM INTERVIEW "Pope Francis. I would like to talk to him about justice."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "My attitude: Take charge, don’t back down."
IF I COULD IMPORT ONE PERSON FROM L.A. "Jack Nicholson. One of the most engaging, astute men I have ever met."
WHY HE MATTERS Since Pelley, 58, settled into the anchor chair in 2011, his nightly show has added nearly 1.5 million viewers, making it the fastest-growing evening newscast on network TV. He also is the broadcast's managing editor and the longest-tenured among his nightly news rivals. His newscast has closed the gap with ABC by nearly a quarter-million viewers and with NBC by 1.1 million. As a full-time correspondent on 60 Minutes, the married father of two has reported on ISIS from Iraq and landed a newsmaking interview with CIA director John Brennan.
WHY HE MATTERS His sprawling operation encompasses investigative journalism, cultural criticism and fiction from literary elites. "And on Wednesday afternoons I pick talking-dog cartoons," jokes Remnick, 57. But few have his ability to shape the opinions of the city as well as the nation's most influential. In addition to launching The New Yorker Radio Hour in October (Remnick hosts), he extended the brand ("I resist that word," he groans) with The New Yorker Presents, a 10-episode series that debuted on Amazon in February (Alex Gibney executive produced). In 2015, the 91-year-old magazine reached its peak circulation (more than 1 million), and during the past year its website boasted 13.5 million unique visitors a month, according to Omniture — up 20 percent from the previous year — with millennials (ages 18-34) posting the largest growth, per MRI Doublebase. When not admiring the "hedge-fund view" from his 38th-floor office in One World Trade Center, the father of three enjoys TV (Girls; "guilty pleasure" Billions) and movies, but he doesn't watch the Oscars ("not since I was a kid and Ordinary People won over Raging Bull").
DREAM INTERVIEW "On the pop-culture level, Beyonce — not for me but for The New Yorker. She's a gigantic cultural phenomenon, and she's made herself very difficult to know as a person. I'd want to know more. There are 14 layers of protection around her, and deliberation and PR."
IF I COULD EVICT ONE PERSON FROM NYC "He's running for president: Trump is a dangerous demagogue. The fact that he's funny is extremely deceptive. For decades he occupied a kind of comic space in the New York ego-scape; he was the guy who discovered: 'If I just say outrageous things and behave like a cartoon of Louis XIV, I will become enormously famous. It doesn't matter that I'm wrong, ill-informed and even racist — some people will find this hilarious.' But now it's not a question of whether he gets to put his name on the side of a skyscraper — it's whether he has the nuclear codes."
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "I've watched [Keeping Up With the] Kardashians a few times. The second time I watched it, the basketball player and briefly husband of Kim threw her into the idyllic waters of wherever they were, Bora Bora, and she lost her — I'm sure insured — diamond earring, and she treated it as if it were Hiroshima. She's Andy Warhol — not that she's an artist, but the whole phenomenon about understanding something about fame in America. I don't want to watch it [again] necessarily because I think I got the idea."
MOST REVOLTING PIZZA RAT-STYLE MOMENT "I do remember in my deep recess of consciousness, having to dispense with a water bug that was the size of a paperback book, but it's a very small price to pay for living here."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Take-out food."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "Vladmir Putin. I’d like it to be real access, not just 45 minutes of question-answer. The space between his ears is the most complicated and unknown territory in all of Russia. That space is a black box to all of us. I never met Chris Rock, and I find him incredibly funny, obviously, but also very wise about comedy and fame and race and America."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH "The nova onion and eggs and a bialy toasted well at Barney Greengrass. And Gary Greengrass' unfortunate coffee. I live a block and a half away, and it's the only restaurant where I have an account."
WHY HE MATTERS Rhodes, 42, has a simple mantra for CBS: "Real news." And it seems to be paying off in the era of the social media-driven sound bite. CBS This Morning, transformed by executive producer Chris Licht into a bastion of respectability after years of trying to unsuccessfully ape its competitors, is the only broadcast morning show to add viewers and also is the only one that isn't shedding those in the critical 25-to-54 demographic. The network's debates, moderated by John Dickerson and executive produced by CBS Evening News' Steve Capus (the former NBC News chief), have garnered critical praise for their adherence to substance. Rhodes successfully managed a seamless and gossip-free segue from Bob Schieffer to Dickerson on Face the Nation and launched streaming service CBSN, which just nabbed its biggest name: erstwhile Good Morning America and NBC Sports anchor Josh Elliott.
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "I don't golf."
IF I COULD EVICT ONE PERSON FROM NYC Port Authority
IF I COULD IMPORT ONE PERSON FROM L.A. [Dodgers pitcher] Clayton Kershaw
WHY HE MATTERS Since taking over from Colin Myler in October 2015 — part of a larger reorganization that saw dozens of staffers laid off — Rich, 44 and a married father of one, has combatted a declining print circulation (339,000 in early 2014 versus 234,000 in late 2015) with steady online growth (his first three months on the job saw traffic increase from 132.5 million to 149.6 million global views, per comScore). Much of the credit goes to Rich's over-the-top approach to "the wood" — tabloid jargon for front-page headlines, which in the News' case gleefully skewer conservatives ("DROP DEAD, TED" in response to Ted Cruz's dis of "New York values," and "I'M WITH STUPID!" after Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump). The New York Times deems its mass competitor "newly relevant"; New York has dubbed it "Twitter's tabloid."
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME "I'm a former sports journalist who now hates sports."
WHY THEY MATTER This duo continues to outperform expectations and defy daytime's downward ratings trajectory. Season-to-date, Live is the top syndicated talk show among women 25-to-54, tied with Dr. Phil for the first time since Oprah Winfrey signed off in 2011. Married mom of three Ripa, 45, and Strahan, 44 (twice-divorced and a father of four), a booking must for any A-lister with something to peddle, also bring in an average daily audience of 4 million. Strahan has made a success of his side gig at Good Morning America, while Ripa thrives as an in-demand pitchwoman.
DREAM INTERVIEW Strahan: "[General Motors CEO] Mary Barra. I admire the path she took to get to the top and run one of the largest companies in the world."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY Ripa: "Sandy Gallin, especially a dinner party at his house. He is the greatest storyteller, and he has the best food and ambiance."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH Strahan: "Anything Mario Batali, Michael Symon, or Bobby Flay cooks."
WHY THEY MATTER It continues to trail Today and Good Morning America in the ratings, but CBS' offering is up 10 percent year-over-year and is the only morning show able to claim consistent viewer growth. The Peabody Award-winning broadcast has maintained its focus on hard news and regularly churns out high-profile interviews. Rose, 74, who also contributes to 60 Minutes and hosts his own PBS show, scored big with a post-El Chapo sit-down with Sean Penn; married mom of three O'Donnell, 42, also of 60 Minutes, snagged Vice President Joe Biden's first interview after he decided not to seek the Democratic presidential nomination; and King, 61, the mother of two adult children, landed the first joint live interview with the president and first lady.
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT ME Rose: "I love to play as much as I love to work." King: "I don't like buttons and avoid wearing them." O'Donnell: "I love golf! It's my favorite sport to play with my family."
DONALD TRUMP IS … Rose: "The most unpredictable politician I have ever observed." King: "Guaranteed to start and/or end conversations at any dinner party."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY Rose: "Barack Obama because I think that we are just beginning to capture the things that he thinks but does not say." O'Donnell: "Aung San Suu Kyi." King: "Bruuuuce Springsteen is the epitome of cool."
DREAM INTERVIEW Rose: "Keith Richards." King: "The Obama girls, but they ain't talking so I need a new dream." O'Donnell: For the second year in a row, "Kim Jong-un."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH King: "Anything on the menu at Jean-Georges or ABC Kitchen." O'Donnell: "Truffle pasta at Sette Mezzo."
WHY THEY MATTER After overhauling its daytime schedule to focus on breaking news, MSNBC has enjoyed a significant uptick in the ratings, with Morning Joe the biggest beneficiary. For February, Scarborough, 52, and Brzezinski, 48, celebrated their biggest win over CNN since 2014 and a 96 percent ratings surge in the 25-to-54 demo. Joe aired more than 100 presidential candidate interviews this election season. With Scarborough, who's twice divorced with three children, and married mother of two Brzezinski's yin-yang positions (right- and left-leaning, respectively), they continue to attract blue-chip advertisers thanks to one of the wealthiest, most educated audiences in morning news.
PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PAST YEAR Scarborough: "We went against the conventional wisdom of 99 percent of the media by saying Donald Trump would be a viable candidate and Marco Rubio was all hype."
DONALD TRUMP IS … Scarborough: "A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Brzezinski: "The Wizard of Oz, but we just don't know what's behind the curtain."
DREAM INTERVIEW Brzezinski: "The entire cast of Veep for a full hour." Scarborough: "Paul McCartney. He influenced my life more than anyone outside of my parents."
IF I COULD EVICT ONE PERSON FROM NYC Scarborough: "Tyga for not letting McCartney into his Grammy party."
APP I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT Scarborough: "I hate to admit it but, Twitter." Brzezinski: "Instagram."
MOST NEW YORK THING ABOUT MY LIFE Scarborough: "On the weekends, I wake up early, read the paper and walk the Upper West Side, which is usually vacant at 6 a.m." Brzezinski: "I get my hair done at The Carlyle by Yves Durif. It’s the most glamorous, Old New York place I’ve ever been to. It’s like stepping back in time and then walking out feeling like a movie star."
FAVORITE NEW YORK DISH Brzezinski: "Anything from Shun Lee." Scarborough: "Chicken paillard at the Polo Bar."
WHY SHE MATTERS The first promo for the April return of the 34-year-old's New York-shot Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, featured a doctor diagnosing her with overexposure. But the recent Emmy winner and Golden Globe nominee, whose feature Trainwreck ($140.8 million at the box office) minted her as a household name, has yet to let her rising Hollywood stock get in the way of her die-hard New Yorker status. "I did recently go on my first private jet," she told THR. "I caught myself before saying, 'We need a bigger jet.' Three years ago, I'm begging for half-off potato skins, and now I'm like, 'This jet is wack.' "
WHY THEY MATTER The cutthroat morning show race has put them back at No. 2 (behind Today) in the 25-to-54 demographic, but like ringmasters in a frenetic TV circus, Stephanopoulos, 55, Roberts, 55, and Spencer, 46, continue to deliver high-profile pop culture gets (Roberts' exclusive sit-down with retiring Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant), timely interviews (Stephanopoulos' candid conversation with Hillary Clinton) and, of course, stunts (witness that grueling 40-hour live stream timed to the show's 40th anniversary in October).
DREAM INTERVIEW Stephanopoulos: "Putin and Trump — together."
WHY HE MATTERS In December, the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" signed another enormous contract with SiriusXM worth a reported $90 million annually through 2020. Stern, 62, is sitting so pretty that he passed on re-upping his massive deal to judge America's Got Talent (the NBC show had moved production of its summer flagship to New York just to accommodate him). Stern continues to attract A-listers to his ribald program, including Louis C.K., Amy Schumer and Sofia Vergara, and he generates headlines as the go-to for personal admissions (for example, John Stamos opening up about rehab).
WHY SHE MATTERS The most powerful creative figure at the gilded Conde Nast since the legendary Alexander Liberman ran the show during the 1990s, Wintour has been steering the publishing empire into the modern age under an unforgiving media microscope. She also has been the driving force behind the Met Ball (with which she has raised $150 million) and a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Her commanding influence over fashion (where a Vogue cover still matters most), politics and Hollywood is matched by her intimidating image, which friend Baz Luhrmann believes is unfairly gendered. "I do think if Anna was a man, there might be less focus on that," he says in the documentary The First Monday in May. "She plays the person everyone thinks she is — but that character is kind of her work armor."
WHY HE MATTERS With Zucker at the helm, CNN had the network's most profitable year and became the fastest-growing cable network in the U.S. CNN also had its smallest gap with Fox News in seven years and its biggest advantage over MSNBC in 10 years. "And our digital properties were No. 1 across the board in news and information," he says. Zucker, a married father of four who turns 51 on April 9, says his proudest accomplishment of the past year is how CNN "has owned 2016 presidential campaign coverage."
PERSON I'D LIKE TO SIT NEXT TO AT A DINNER PARTY "Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be a hoot."