An MSNBC producer revealed in an open letter on Monday why she quit her job last month, blasting her former employer's obsession with ratings as a "cancer."
Ariana Pekary — a former producer for MSNBC's "Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," the network's second highest-rated show — accused MSNBC of hinging their editorial direction on what content will drive the best ratings, calling the strategy a "cancer."
"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," Pekary wrote on her personal website.
To prove her point, Pekary explained that MSNBC has chosen to focus on President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, instead of informing viewers on how to stay safe through the chaos by providing them with the most up-to-date scientific information. She also said that MSNBC dedicates most of its election coverage to Trump and ignores presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, which she characterized as "a repeat offense from 2016."
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).
The internal environment at MSNBC is so toxic that, according to Pekary, one top producer once told her, "Our viewers don't really consider us the news. They come to us for comfort."
"[B]ehind closed doors, industry leaders will admit the damage that's being done," she wrote.
The New York City-based journalist even claimed that a "successful and insightful TV veteran" told her about the media landscape, "We are a cancer and there is no cure."
According to The Hill, Pekary joined MSNBC seven years ago after working at NPR.
The resignation comes just weeks after Bari Weiss, a high-profile opinion editor at the New York Times, also resigned from her workplace, revealing the Times' toxic workplace, which included alleged bullying, left her no choice but to leave.
In response to Pekary's letter, Weiss said, "Integrity. Eager to see what @arianapekary does next."