Keeping viewers on their toes

It’s a rainy Monday evening in early November and there are plenty of meaty news stories out there worthy of good reporting: Tomorrow’s elections, a shooting at LAX, the healthcare.gov mess, Mohammed Morsi’s trial…

So how much variety can we expect from a single cable news channel’s prime time lineup? Let’s see if MSNBC and its parade of big-time hosts can give audiences a quality assortment of top stories.

The night kicks off with Hardball with Chris Matthews. He leads with “Something Borrowed”: A story about Sen. Rand Paul’s recent plagiarism debacle. Matthews’ colleague, Rachel Maddow, broke a similar story last Wednesday when Sen. Paul lifted parts of a speech from Wikipedia. Now the senator is in the hot seat for plagiarizing portions of his book. Matthews follows his lead with a story about a new tell-all book about the 2012 presidential election before moving on to Chris Christie’s re-election campaign. Matthews ends the show with a story about the Republicans plan to “destroy” the new healthcare law.

Following Hardball is All In with Chris Hayes. Hayes begins with a creative narrative about misleading reports on the Affordable Care Act and brings in analysts to help clear up some of the confusion surrounding the law. Hayes follows his lead with a story about a procedural vote in the Senate on the Employment Non–Discrimination Act. Next up for All In is further coverage on the Sen. Paul saga. Hayes completes the show with a roundtable discussion on tomorrow’s governor elections in New Jersey and Virginia.

The next program on the docket is The Rachel Maddow Show–arguably the highlight of MSNBC’s primetime coverage. Maddow begins with a crafty lead in to her top story about the new voter ID laws in Texas. She expounds on the new Texas laws by underscoring the recent “purge” laws affecting voter turnout in Virginia. Maddow then moves on to a story about a hotly contested Republican congressional run-off election in Alabama. She then reports on the inaccuracies at politifact.com and the non-discrimination bill that passed the Senate. Maddow completes her show with the Sen. Paul controversy.

The final show in the night’s lineup is The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. O’Donnell begins by mentioning the fifth anniversary of Pres. Barack Obama’s election as a lead-in to his coverage of the healthcare fight. O’Donnell added a human element to this recurring story by including soundbites from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and openly gay Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.). He also incorporated interviews with LGBT rights activist Stuart Milk (nephew of Harvey Milk) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). O’Donnell then switches his coverage to breaking news out of Paramus, NJ where police were searching for a gunman inside Garden State Plaza Mall. O’Donnell resumes coverage and interviews Jason Thingpen–an Iraq war veteran and former Republican who is now running for office in North Carolina as a Democrat.

We have a total of four different leads, 10 different stories and new angles on recurring topics. Enough variety? I’ll let you decide.

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