There doesn’t exist a cable news network without a serious ideological bent,

Before quitting, Ariana Pekary worked as a producer on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at MSNBC (or so she claims). The network bias and the unwillingness to highlight “fringe” perspectives ultimately led to Pekary’s decision to quit. On her personal site, Pekary wrote:

You may not watch MSNBC but just know that this problem still affects you, too. All the commercial networks function the same – and no doubt that content seeps into your social media feed, one way or the other.

It’s possible that I’m more sensitive to the editorial process due to my background in public radio, where no decision I ever witnessed was predicated on how a topic or guest would “rate.” The longer I was at MSNBC, the more I saw such choices — it’s practically baked in to the editorial process – and those decisions affect news content every day. Likewise, it’s taboo to discuss how the ratings scheme distorts content, or it’s simply taken for granted, because everyone in the commercial broadcast news industry is doing the exact same thing.

But behind closed doors, industry leaders will admit the damage that’s being done.

Context and factual data are often considered too cumbersome for the audience. There may be some truth to that (our education system really should improve the critical thinking skills of Americans) – but another hard truth is that it is the job of journalists to teach and inform, which means they might need to figure out a better way to do that. They could contemplate more creative methods for captivating an audience. Just about anything would improve the current process, which can be pretty rudimentary (think basing today’s content on whatever rated well yesterday, or look to see what’s trending online today).

Occasionally, the producers will choose to do a topic or story without regard for how they think it will rate, but that is the exception, not the rule. Due to the simple structure of the industry – the desire to charge more money for commercials, as well as the ratings bonuses that top-tier decision-makers earn – they always relapse into their old profitable programming habits.

I understand that the journalistic process is largely subjective and any group of individuals may justify a different set of priorities on any given day. Therefore, it’s particularly notable to me, for one, that nearly every rundown at the network basically is the same, hour after hour. And two, they use this subjective nature of the news to justify economically beneficial decisions. I’ve even heard producers deny their role as journalists. A very capable senior producer once said: “Our viewers don’t really consider us the news. They come to us for comfort.”

The entire letter is well worth reading and can be found here.

Bari Weiss (who very publicly quit her job with the NYT’s editorial staff for similar reasons) chimed in:

From Fox News:

MSNBC did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

According to her personal site, Pekary joined MSNBC in 2013 as part of launching Alec Baldwin’s short-lived show. She previously worked for NPR.

 

 
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