Four Seasoned Journalists Will Moderate Tonight's Presidential Debate. They Happen to Be Women.

The four jouranlists are some of the most practiced reporters and commentators on television. Between them, Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker, and Kristen Welker have covered Congress, the White House, presidential races, and the State Department. (Mitchell has herself reported on all four of those beats.) Each is so seasoned she seems to have eliminated verbal tics from her speech—the “ums” and “likes” that mere mortals can’t shake.

But in conversation with them, there are phrases that crop up like punctuation.

It’s the first week of November and the fifth presidential debate set to take place in Atlanta, Georgia, is imminent, hosted on MSNBC with the Washington Post. Late last month, the network announced its four moderators—Maddow, who hosts her namesake show on the network; Mitchell, a veteran with the network since 1978; Parker, a White House reporter for the Washington Post; and NBC News White House correspondent Welker.

Rachel Maddow on Today.

Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Andrea Mitchell

Andrea Mitchell on Meet the Press.

NBC NewsWire/Getty Images

The top brass went with their finest, of course—a balance of expertise, from Maddow, with her finger on the pulse of Democratic voters, to Mitchell, who is the chief NBC News foreign affairs correspondent, to Parker and Welker, who report on this particular White House on a minute-to-minute basis. (“I’ve got four of the best journalists ever,” explains Rashida Jones, senior vice president for specials on NBC News and MSNBC. “Andrea and Kristen and Rachel and Ashley—they know how to interview people.”)

And oh, sure. That’s right. All are women.

As Mitchell, Welker, and Parker tell it when we meet at 30 Rockefeller Center in a snug, bright conference room, these three in particular also happen to be friends, with Parker and Welker spending hours racing between their offices and the White House and both appearing on Mitchell’s show, Andrea Mitchell Reports.

And so when the women talk, these are the words that get repeated over and over. Not “uh” or “well,” but: “To Ashley’s point,” “As Kristen said,” “Let me just add about these two,” “I agree with Andrea,” and “No, please. You first.”

What’s it like to be in a room or at a table or on camera with four of the most accomplished women in journalism? Well, there’s a lot of credit to spread around, bottomless praise, and no one interrupts.

Pressed to describe her relationship with her female coworkers, Mitchell observes that the group “tends to be more collegial.” Later, she adds: “I don’t want to be sexist, but there is a different feeling in the room when we’re preparing.”

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