Media

MSNBC Producer Quits, Writes That ‘The Job Itself Forces Skilled Journalists To Make Bad Decisions On A Daily Basis’

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
Font Size:

MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary quit the network in July and wrote a blog post Monday explaining how she believes “the news” – including her former network – “is fundamentally flawed.”

Pekary worked in public radio for 12 years until she transitioned to MSNBC in 2014, according to her LinkedIn. Most recently, she was a producer for the network’s late-night show “Up Late with Alec Baldwin.” Pekary detailed the reasons for her departure on her blog, tweeting that “it’s not the optimal time for change but the time doesn’t feel optional, anymore.”

“July 24th was my last day at MSNBC,” according to Pekary. “I don’t know what I’m going to do next exactly but I simply couldn’t stay there anymore. 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.” (RELATED: MSNBC Gives Daily Show To Former Al Jazeera Host Who Attacked ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle As ‘Racist’)

Pekary added that MSNBC is not the only network to function this way. According to her, all of them do. She also said that the  “content seeps into … social media” as well. She cited her former job in public radio and how it differed from the MSNBC gig, as ratings did not determine content.

“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,'” she wrote. “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.”

One TV veteran told Pekary that they were “a cancer” with “no cure,” she wrote in her blog. A senior producer added that: “Our viewers don’t really consider us the news. They come to us for comfort.”

“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 continued. “This cancer risks human lives, even in the middle of a pandemic.”

The former MSNBC producer wrote that “this cancer risks our democracy,” too, and that “context and factual data are often considered too cumbersome for the audience.” On rare occasions, “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,” she noted.

“Again, personally, I don’t think the people need to change,” Pekary explained. “I think the job itself needs to change. There is a better way to do this. I’m not so cynical to think that we are absolutely doomed (though we are on that path). I know we can find a cure.”

“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.”

Pekary’s goodbye post ended with a note that she plans to begin to seek out “any one of you who also may sense that the news is fundamentally flawed and is frustrated by it.”

“This effort will start informally but I hope to crystallize a plan for when better, safer days are upon us,” she wrote. “On that front, feel free to reach out anytime if you would like to discuss any of this – whether in agreement or not. More than ever, I’m craving a full and civil discourse.”