Ariana Pekary, who from 2014 up until July 24 of this year worked as a producer at MSNBC, wrote a revealing resignation letter on Monday where she claims that "producers deny their role as journalists."
She wrote that she was told by an industry veteran that "We are a cancer and there is no cure... But if you could find a cure, it would change the world."
"As it is," she wrote, "this cancer stokes national division, even in the middle of a civil rights crisis. 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."
She said that one of her superiors at MSNBC told her in no uncertain terms that "Our viewers don’t really consider us the news. They come to us for comfort."
Peckary wrote: "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."
Her chief complaint was how much their content and guidelines revolved around one thing and one thing only: popular opinion and ratings. She notes that it's not just MSNBC doing this, but the whole of the commercial broadcast industry. She believes that the biased content produced by mainstream media "seeps into social media" and into the rest of the internet.
According to Pekary's account, producers' main concern was with ratings, and "the desire to charge more money for commercials." The industry compensation structure is based on "ratings bonuses," she wrote.
"I’ve even heard producers deny their role as journalists. A very capable senior producer once said: 'Our viewers don’t really consider us the news. They come to us for comfort,'" she wrote. "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 posted a call to action and to reach out to anybody that may agree with her, within the industry or not. She also plans to actively search for "any one of you who also may sense that the news is fundamentally flawed and is frustrated by it."
In conclusion, she invited readers to reach out to her, "More than ever, I’m craving a full and civil discourse."
Pekary's story is making waves in the internet because of the serious nature of her claims and her background in journalism.
The point Pekary is making is that the current model of news reporting focuses erroneously on very small and vocal minorities with extremist views and sensational events in order to compete for ratings. She claims it has led to confusion and misinformation regarding the current pandemic, and that our very lives and democracy are at risk.
This is not the first high profile MSNBC resignation this year, although the circumstances and reasons for leaving were not the same in each case.