Joy-Ann Reid is the host of MSNBC’s AM Joy, a weekend morning talk show about politics that averages almost 1 million weekly viewers. In addition to her TV work, she hosts a podcast and has written several books, including a history of the contemporary Democratic party, Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide. Last summer, she published The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story, in which she explores the toll of Donald Trump’s presidency on immigrants, women, people of color, and the country at large. She lives in New York with her husband, who is a documentary film editor for the Discovery Channel, and her three children. Here’s how she gets it done.
On a typical morning:
I have to start the day with a red eye. I cannot function without a large coffee with a shot of espresso. That’s step one to feeling alive and awake. After that I check my text messages, of which there are many. The other day I woke up to 46. They’re usually from all the people who are involved in managing my life — my personal assistant, producers, our publicist. I don’t meditate first or anything. I just dive in and respond quickly and get it over with. I’m Type A and I need to know what’s going on all the time. It takes a lot of communication. My kids call me a reverse millennial, because I text on my two phones 24/7.
On the weekends I have to be up early because I need to be in the office by 7:30 a.m. to start preparing for the show, which starts at 10 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays are my actual weekend. I’m the only person who looks forward to Monday! On those days, I try to sleep in until 10 a.m. if possible. And then I get up and see what’s going on. I am addicted to checking social media and refreshing the Washington Post to see what the government has done today. During the rest of my week — Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday — I tend to get up pretty early, maybe 7 or 8 o’clock, and head into the office.
On her daily schedule:
I spend my days either working on scripts, talking to sources, or tweaking the show. We change the show a lot before we get to Saturday because so much keeps happening. It’s like a fire hose.
Thursday is sort of my hell day because I do my podcast in addition to my normal work. And more often than not I’m doing some nighttime TV, either guest-hosting or appearing as a guest. My nights tend to go really late.
On the stress of working in news:
I would love to be in the business of telling people the good and the bad that’s happening. But right now, we’re usually telling you the bad and the scary. With such acute anxiety around our politics, I will admit it’s stressful. It’s hard to constantly say, “This isn’t normal,” and to talk people through news that’s distressing and depressing. Basically, I have to compartmentalize it. I try not to personally experience the things that I’m reporting. Which is tough, especially as a woman and a person of color, and a daughter of immigrants. I have children who are also people of color, and a husband who is a person of color and an immigrant. It affects me. I feel a lot. But I just report what’s happening and try not to live it at the same time. To do that, I have to carve out enough time for myself every day. I need a moment to exit the news cycle and watch something else. I love TV. I’ll watch my zombie shows, all the Walking Dead iterations. I loved Game of Thrones. I watch mad TV just to decompress.
On managing email:
My inbox is terrible. It is so full. Before I hired an assistant, I hired my daughter to help me, and she would just go through and delete stuff. There would be like 15,000 things in my Gmail, which is crazy. I tell people, “If you email me, you also have to text me and say you emailed me. Otherwise I will never see your email.”
On raising three kids:
Now, my kids are older — 24, 22, and 19 — so I don’t have to actively parent as much. They still live with us, except for my youngest, who’s in college. But they have their own lives now. When I first came back to New York to work for NBC News, they were younger — in 11th grade, ninth grade, and seventh grade. We worked it out so that if they needed me, they always knew they could come see me at work. And I’m always available to them on the phone. It helped to have a good partner. My husband was always really involved, and during that time he really stepped up his game and filled in the places where I couldn’t. The hardest thing was having to travel so much. We had this ritual that everywhere I went, I always brought them something back, so it was like they were part of the trip in some way. I also think it’s good for kids to see their parents living their adventure. If you limit yourself for your kids, then you limit their opportunity to see what it’s like to be like a fully actualized adult.
I never cook. When my kids were younger, my husband did a lot of cooking, and he’s great at it. But now that the kids are older, everyone’s like, “Oh I already grabbed something.” So we have walked away from the dinner table. We are a Seamless family. Thank God for Seamless.
On taking breaks:
In my day-to-day, I try to take mental-health breaks. My TV breaks are critical. I have insomnia, and I really cannot sleep until I take at least an hour for myself and sit down and have a cocktail, watch some TV, and just be by myself. So I always fit that in at the end of every day. My cocktail of choice is Prosecco with St. Germain. It’s light, only 120 calories, and it’s fabulous.
On finding time to see friends:
I’m pretty much exempt from doing anything on Friday and Saturday nights. But it’s fine. I’m not a club kid anymore. I’m a little bit old for that. I love a brunch. I can make a brunch happen on Sundays because I’m done with work by around 2 p.m., after I do our post-show social media. Or I’ll try to drag people out for an hour on Mondays or Tuesdays, when I’m off.
On being a public figure:
In New York, people are sort of blasé about seeing people from TV. But in some places where I travel, people want to stop and talk. I end up taking a lot of selfies and having a lot of conversations about Trump and the news. And I don’t mind doing it, because I recognize that people are anxious, and they want to know why this is happening. And the fact that my show is popular is great for all of us. However, there is a dark side. We all have our trolls. And I especially don’t want my kids to get drawn into it. My youngest son is always like, “Tag my Instagram!” But I don’t want people to take advantage of the fact that they can get to me by attacking my husband or my kids. And people will do that, unfortunately. We live in a trolling age and it can be ugly.
I have a pretty thick skin. When I’m getting a stream of attacks, it usually comes in a wave, so I’ll just get off social media for a few hours and they get tired and bored and go away. I used to attack a troll here and there, but then I realized it’s not worth it. You’re just elevating them. So my policy now is just ignore. Operation Ignore. Let them scream into the void.
On what keeps her motivated:
I recently did a book signing in Philadelphia, and a mom and her little girl came up to me, and the mom said her daughter loved watching my show. That’s what motivates me. As stressful as this time is, I feel like I’m doing something. This is an era where you can either stay silent and accept these outrageous things, like what’s happening to immigrant kids, or you can do something. My thing is that I can talk on TV, and write books, and write articles. My ability to communicate is what I can contribute, and I am blessed with a platform, so I’m going to use it. And that does make me feel better.