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MSNBC Producer Leaves Network, Writes Letter Explaining How Broadcast News is a Cancer Without a Cure

MSNBC Producer Leaves Network, Writes Letter Explaining How Broadcast News is a Cancer Without a Cure

“The model blocks diversity of thought and content because the networks have incentive to amplify fringe voices and events, at the expense of others… all because it pumps up the ratings.”

https://youtu.be/8abLxGh_RQc

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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Comments

No lady, a journalist’s job is not to educate; a journalist’s job is to present the facts and let the reader/viewer/listener decide for themselves. To educate means that you are editing the information and presenting what you think are the important points–be you Fox or PMSNBC

    alohahola in reply to persecutor. | August 4, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    A most excellent point perscutor.

    I wish more university professors did the journalist’s job as you describe it!

    Along the sordid way, the left re-named “reporters” as “journalists”, and we see the pathetic state of ‘news’ gathering today.

    filiusdextris in reply to persecutor. | August 5, 2020 at 11:43 am

    I disagree to some extent. A reporter can’t and shouldn’t report all possible relevant facts. So fact selection is incumbent in the position. One criteria for choosing the presentation of one fact over another should be its educative value. I will never object to a news report serving as a debriefing on a subject, if not intentionally biased.

“… because the networks have incentive to amplify fringe voices…”

“The network bias and the unwillingness to highlight “fringe” perspectives ultimately led to Pekary’s decision…”

Which is it?

    Dusty Pitts in reply to MTED. | August 4, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    I wondered about that too, but decided tat by “highlight” perhaps she meant “hoist a big red flag over it so people KNOW it’s a fringe viewpoint,” whereas “amplify” means to make appear widespread and therefore mainstream.

    I could be wrong though.

Why, I’m absolutely shocked at the thought of this type of shenanigans happening at MSNBC. Next you’re going to try to tell me that CNN does the same thing.

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.”

Oh, stop, she’s killing me here.

    alaskabob in reply to tom_swift. | August 4, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    She forgot the “/sarc” annotation on that one. OK.. so she is only partially blind and partially woke. (Sort of) Woke White Female?

“Since when has the news been entertainment?”
“Since _always_.”
~ Theora and Murray, _Max Headroom_, 1987

I suppose a few years with the Foreign Service made me a media skeptic. I’d dutifully reported on the uglinesses of China’s rise (child labor, corvee on public works, repression of religious and political rights, ethno-religious separatism in Sharki Turkistan), the Rwandan genocide, and a multi-state war in Central Africa as I was leaving. I exited, and saw our major media reporting on the doings of vapid sports figures and Madonna’s cup size.

Sure, it’s a great ideal that the reporters report “the facts” and let the readers/viewers decide. But, there’s also the editorial decision over which “facts” get reported. You can “spin” the world without ostensible editorializing.

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