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MSNBC Producer Quits, Says Media Ratings Obsession Is a 'Cancer' that 'Risks Our Democracy'

08-08-2020
Image Source: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Image Source: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Ariana Pekary, a producer for MSNBC, resigned recently, publishing an open letter accusing the left-leaning news network of being so ratings obsessed it “blocks diversity of thought and content.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do next, exactly, but I simply couldn’t stay there anymore,” wrote Pekary, who served as a producer for “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” the second-most-watched show on MSNBC. “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 went on to write it’s “possible” she’s “more sensitive to the editorial process” because of her 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,” she continued, “the more I saw such choices — it’s practically baked into the editorial process — and those decisions affect news content every day.”

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The former producer explained 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.”

Behind closed doors, Pekary added, “industry leaders will admit the damage that’s being done” by tying the value of content to the ratings it garners.

FAITHWIRE: Popular Writer Bari Weiss Leaves New York Times After Posting Blistering Resignation Letter

“This cancer risks our democracy, even in the middle of a presidential election,” she wrote. “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.”

In a follow-up post published Tuesday, Pekary further explained that her issues with MSNBC “are not ideological in nature,” because every cable news outlet — by her estimation — is guilty of the same sin.

“My concerns are economic,” she wrote in the updated post. “The flawed structure of the industry affects everyone. And that means everyone — red state, blue state, purple, whatever. My goal is to work to create a fair arena for discussion, debate, and reliable information. Thoughtful, independent voices should be promoted. I firmly believe that our democracy will not succeed otherwise.”

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Pekary’s resignation came just weeks after Bari Weiss left her opinion editor post at The New York Times. She accused the left-leaning newspaper of allowing Twitter and its hoard of so-called “social justice warriors” to become the paper’s “ultimate editor.”

“Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times,” she wrote in her letter to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger. “But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.”

You can read more about Weiss’ exit here.

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