A former MSNBC producer on Monday published a searing open letter explaining why she left the network, writing that the broadcast news industry is a “cancer” that “stokes national division” due to the prioritization of ratings.
Ariana Pekary, a producer for MSNBC’s primetime show “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” said her last day at the network was July 24, and while she is unsure what her next step is, “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,” Pekary said in a statement on her personal website.
Pekary said she witnessed the network make content decisions based on ratings, a consideration she said is “practically baked in to the editorial process – and those decisions affect news content every day.”
“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.”
The “cancer” also “risks human lives” amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pekary said, because the network focused on the Trump administration’s response to the crisis rather than “important facts or studies,” which get “buried.”
It also “risks our democracy,” the former producer continued, because MSNBC focuses on President Trump rather than Joe Biden and fails to cover how to vote by mail, a topic Pekary said she has seen get “killed” more than once during the editorial process.
Choosing a story without considering its ratings potential is “the exception, not the rule,” Pekary said, adding that, “context and factual data are often considered too cumbersome for the audience.”
She cited a “very capable senior producer,” who according to Pekary said, “Our viewers don’t really consider us the news. They come to us for comfort.”
Pekary is the latest in a string of high-profile figures to depart the news industry over the last month.
Last month, opinion editor Bari Weiss resigned from The New York Times, penning a scathing letter of resignation in which she alleged that she was subjected to “constant bullying” from colleagues who deemed many of her ideas “wrongthink.”
Days later, British conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan departed New York Magazine for similar reasons, asserting that the magazine and its parent organization Vox Media are hostile to “diversity of opinion.”