MSNBC Producer Scorches the Earth in Stunning Resignation Letter: TV News is a ‘Cancer,’ Amplifies ‘Fringe Voices and Events’


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An MSNBC producer who resigned last month published a scathing resignation letter Monday in which she blasted the television news industry for blocking “diversity of thought and content” while amplifying “fringe voices and events … all because it pumps up the ratings.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do next exactly but I simply couldn’t stay there anymore,” former producer Ariana Pekary wrote in the piece published on her blog. “My colleagues are very smart people with good intentions. The problem is the job itself. It forces skilled journalists to make bad decisions on a daily basis.”

Pekary said her colleagues sought content that would boost the network’s ratings rather than inform viewers. “Context and factual data are often considered too cumbersome for the audience,” Pekary said. “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.”

She added: “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.”

The media’s relentless focus on content that will garner the most attention is an age-old gripe by journalists, many of whom would prefer to focus on in-depth content less likely to pay off. That is particularly true this year, with many media companies — including CNN — laying employees off to battle tightened budgets during the coronavirus pandemic.

Quoting an unnamed TV veteran calling the industry a “cancer,” Pekary said the problem applied to all TV news networks. “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.”

She added: “As it is, this cancer stokes national division, even in the middle of a civil rights crisis. 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.”

UPDATE: An MSNBC spokesperson responded to Pekary’s comments, saying, “We take the public trust granted to us very seriously and even more so in today’s unprecedented news environment. It’s our responsibility to cover stories that are critical to our viewers. They rely on our hosts, correspondents and contributors to go where breaking news and the facts lead, asking tough questions and digging into stories with deep analysis. We encourage debate and differences of perspectives in our newsroom because it makes the product better.”

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