A former producer for the liberal MSNBC network penned a scathing letter of resignation calling the cable news company a “cancer.”
Ariana Pekary shared the letter on her personal website explaining why she “simply couldn’t stay there anymore.”
“July 24th was my last day at MSNBC. I don’t know what I’m going to do next exactly but I simply couldn’t stay there anymore,” she said.
“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,” the producer said.
“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.”
“We are a cancer and there is no cure,’ a successful and insightful TV veteran said to me. ‘But if you could find a cure, it would change the world,’” she said.”
She said she was an “integral member” of MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.”
And, she said, that the coverage that the network is giving to protests after the George Floyd death and coronavirus is risking lives.
“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,” she said.
“This cancer risks human lives, even in the middle of a pandemic. The primary focus quickly became what Donald Trump was doing (poorly) to address the crisis, rather than the science itself.”
“As new details have become available about antibodies, a vaccine, or how COVID actually spreads, producers still want to focus on the politics.”
“Important facts or studies get buried,” she said. “This cancer risks our democracy, even in the middle of a presidential election.”
“Any discussion about the election usually focuses on Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, a repeat offense from 2016 (Trump smothers out all other coverage). Also important is to ensure citizens can vote by mail this year, but I’ve watched that topic get ignored or ‘killed’ numerous times,” she said.
She said that some journalists choose stories based on merit and not commercialism but that is rare.
“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,” she said.
“Now maybe we can’t really change the inherently broken structure of broadcast news, but I know for certain that it won’t change unless we actually face it, in public, and at least try to change it,” she said.