Following last Monday’s release of a study by Pew showing that MSNBC’s opinion programming vastly outstrips Fox News’s in terms of sheer volume, panelists on CNN’s Reliable Sources decided to mock the insurgent liberal network for its pretension to hard reporting. Along the way, they also hinted at a number of different shifts in the tradition of news reporting that may explain both MSNBC’s shrillness and their jump in ratings.

The panelists – TVNewser’s Gail Shister, Mediaite contributor Joe Concha, and Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter – took mildly different tacks when criticizing MSNBC for its status as the most opinionated network on television. Shister, for instance, bemoaned the fact that pure opinion journalism is simply cheaper and more marketable than reporting, while also criticizing the Pew study that gave rise to the segment.

“It’s a lot cheaper to be spout off and be a gasbag than it is to actually report anything,” Shister said. “The thing that gave me pause about the study, and I have great respect for Pew, is how they differentiated between reporting, because you can argue that reporting forms opinion and where do you draw the line? I wasn’t sure it was in the content analysis that they did for the study. Dubious about what was opinion, what was news.”

Shister also mocked Chris Matthews.

“His opinions are very quiet,” Shister joked to laughter.

“He’s a soft-spoken fellow,” moderator Howard Kurtz agreed wryly.

Concha, meanwhile, singled out Rachel Maddow for criticism, saying that despite Maddow’s impressive intellect, her attempt to disguise herself as a non-agenda-driven commentator was “profoundly stupid.”

“If you watch Rachel Maddow’s show, that is clearly an opinion-based show,” Concha said.

Guthrie, meanwhile, focused on MSNBC’s unilaterally liberal coverage of events. “I think MSNBC has taken this sort of preaching-to-the-choir news and made and formed a whole business model around it,” Guthrie said, “and that is partly in their effort to be sort of the counterpoint to Fox News.”

Watch the panel discuss MSNBC below, courtesy of Mediaite: