An MSNBC producer penned an explosive resignation letter on Monday, calling the liberal cable network a “cancer” that is “stoking national division” by amplifying “fringe voices.”
Ariana Pekary, who worked as a producer on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” said July 24 was her last day on the job after seven years with the network.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next exactly but I simply couldn’t stay there anymore,” Ariana Pekary wrote on her personal website. “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.”
“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 continued. “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 wrote.
“As it is, this cancer stokes national division, even in the middle of a civil rights crisis,” Pekary said. “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.”
“Context and factual data are often considered too cumbersome for the audience,” Pekary later added. “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).”
Pekary’s letter follows another from former New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, who resigned with an open letter addressed to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger in July. She said the paper was condoning of “constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views” and an environment where she said, “self-censorship has become the norm.”
Weiss said she had taken endless abuse for her views, writing, “ … some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly ‘inclusive’ one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still, other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.”
To the publisher, she said: “I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.”