- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2020

MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary penned a blistering resignation letter Monday comparing broadcast news to a “cancer” that is stoking national division and risking people’s lives.

Ms. Pekary, 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, explaining that she “simply couldn’t stay there anymore” due to the journalistic failures that plague the network and all broadcast news.

“The problem is the job itself,” she wrote on her website. “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.

Ms. Pekary went on to claim that a senior producer once told her that viewers flip on MSNBC for “comfort,” not news.

“As it is, this cancer stokes national division, even in the middle of a civil rights crisis,” she wrote. “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.

“This cancer risks human lives, even in the middle of a pandemic,” she added. “The primary focus quickly became what Donald Trump was doing (poorly) to address the crisis, rather than the science itself. As new details have become available about antibodies, a vaccine, or how COVID actually spreads, producers still want to focus on the politics. Important facts or studies get buried.”

Ms. Pekary ended her letter by calling on journalists to acknowledge the “inherently broken structure” of broadcast news and to tackle it head-on and in public.

She then encouraged critics to reach out to her, adding, “more than ever, I’m craving a full and civil discourse.”

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