Thursday, June 09, 2016

How It Works at MSNBC


by Gaius Publius

Keeping this short, while I try to find out how a candidate who can fill multiple football stadiums per week for months gets beat by a candidate who can't fill college basketball gyms ... by 13% in California. I need to think about that.

So, MSNBC. Without intending to (this was written in 2011), Cenk Uygur delivered an indictment of this year's Clinton vs. Sanders coverage on MSNBC. Here's the Huffington Post write-up of Uygur's departure:
Cenk Uygur On Leaving MSNBC: Network Told Me To ‘Tone It Down,’ Didn’t Want To ‘Challenge Power’

Cenk Uygur—the progressive online talk show host whose brief tenure as an MSNBC anchor ended on Wednesday—tore into the network in a lengthy monologue on Wednesday night, saying he had turned down a smaller role on MSNBC because he had been told he was too combative towards “those in power.”

Uygur had been the 6 PM host of the network since January. But that role came to an end on Wednesday, as the network announced that he would not be continuing. ...

Speaking on his “Young Turks” show, Uygur said that, though the ratings for his show had been satisfying MSNBC executives, his “tone” had not. According to his version of events, his departure from the network was the culmination of a protracted struggle with MSNBC management who wanted him to be more buttoned down.

Uygur said that, in April, MSNBC president Phil Griffin called him in for a talk. Griffin allegedly told him that “people in Washington” were concerned with his tone on the show.

“‘Outsiders are cool, but we’re the establishment,’” Griffin said, according to Uygur, who said he was also told to book more Republicans on the show. He claimed to have been stunned by the conversation, and said he ignored Griffin’s advice.

Though his ratings increased, Uygur said that, a couple of weeks ago, he was informed that he would not be getting the permanent slot at 6 PM, but was instead offered a smaller contributor role for twice the salary. He said he turned it down because, in his words, he did not want to work at a place “that didn’t want to challenge power.” ...
The piece goes on to note Griffin's denials. Elements of the story to notice:
  • "People in Washington" were "concerned with his tone"
  • "Outsiders are cool, but we're the establishment"
  • "Book more Republicans"
  • And from the video above, he's too "tough on the guests"
Now watch the video at the top and notice how Uygur was clued to what MSNBC expected of him (at 1:05):
"So here's the interesting story. After I was told, 'Hey, mainly it's the ratings,' one of the producers on one of the shows pulled me aside, as a friend, and gave me a little talking-to, which was interesting. He said, 'Look, Cenk, there are two audiences.' He said, 'There's the audience that you're trying to appeal to, that's the viewers, and then there's the audience that's management. And management is kind of like, the club. And they want to make sure that you're cool, and that, basically, you can play ball to be in the club.'

"And I thought, Hey, listen, the the guys trying to look out for me. I appreciate it. Is that really true? Who knows? It's something to note, no question about it. But we'll see how it develops...."
Employees telling employees how to please the boss. "Words to the wise," a process in place at every workplace I've ever been a part of. In other words, the employees discipline each other, so the boss doesn't have to.

This sets up the discussions with Phil Griffin, Uygur's boss, and Uygur's finding out that it's not really just the ratings they care about, but pleasing "Washington." In part 2 of the discussion, Uygur says, at 3:26: "I am not going to do a show where I pretend most politicians [in Washington] are 'honorable gentlemen'." (Further explanation from Uygur here.)

But if you are willing to do that show, the one where most politicians in Washington are "honorable," the perks are excellent, as Uygur explains at 10:15 above.

One of the perks of being in the MSNBC "club" — you always fly like this (source).

Uygur walked away. Others don't. Not to impugn those others, because you never know whose integrity is totally intact over there. But you also never know who's made the professional trade to keep Phil Griffin happy with his reports from "Washington." 

And that's how it works at MSNBC, at least according to one who didn't make that trade.


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At 1:49 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

He seems to be the only one who has, but I wonder how Chris Hayes has kept his integrity and not flushed himself down the toilet with Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and that over-exuberant chipmunk from New Jersey.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous tones said...

I can no longer watch Rachel's show, she was good until they axed Keith O, from then on she never steps on any toes.
Chris Hayes is careful but occasionally tries to address the real issues, but I always get the feeling he gets yelled at for it after every attempt.

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went from listening to Rachel on the old Air America to her new MSNBC show. Soon after Obama was elected, the tone started changing and she stopped talking about all the betrayals to campaign promises that Obama was doing daily and started focusing on the Bad Republicans. Then, she announced she had been invited to the White House for lunch and she was stoked! The day after that lunch she went on and on about how Obama was the great legislator since FDR? Abraham Lincoln? I forget which grandiosity she chose. A few weeks later, she went to Afghanistan and she was all about "Isn't this war great? Obama's surge... it's going so well!" And that's the last I ever listened to her or took her seriously in any way.

= Kim Kaufman

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also miss Ed Schultz, who became a great progressive over his time at MSNBC. He was evidently treated very badly by Phil Griffin and has never been heard from again. I really looked forward to Ed's show and enjoyed watching him find his way to being a true advocate for working people, unions and the environment. I have hated MSNBC ever since and also have a hard time watching any of them. Can we make a list? Scarborough, Todd, Matthews, etc., etc.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger MG1 said...

Ed has his own show on RT. You can catch him at:

At 10:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't require pictures with your commentary/analysis of political events try Mike Malloy on the Progressive Voices Radio Network. Online, weeknights, 9-11 pm (ET9).
Podcasts available. Full info at

One warning: Occasional "coarse" language, otherwise a true progressive.

John Puma

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Personally i nevered liked MSNBC from the beginning they used to be America's Talking in 94 when they had RW talking heads like Steve Doocy & John Gibson etc & then MSNBC took over in 96 & now they're going right back to what MSNBC used to be in 96 a RW talking head network. Randi Rhodes & Thom Hartmann were each right when they both said the news was cancelled & infotainment has replaced the news.

The elimination of The Fairness Doctrine & the 96 telecoms act has made today's media worse & it's not getting any better.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, cannot watch msnbc any more. Once KO left and Rachel turned into the fascist apologist du jour, I couldn't take it any more. Unless you turn off your brain, you can't watch stuff you know is tailored to make you stupid... especially when it doesn't entertain. The only difference between msnbc and Murdoch is Murdoch stokes hatred, fear and greed to make people evil. msnbc suppresses thought and makes you stupid.

Cenk is a good one who didn't sell out. KO also, and if he could have gotten along with anyone he would have been whacked too eventually. Everyone still there has sold out and SHOULD be ignored. They're shit.

And there you have it. The "free" press was actually pretty expensive and the money bought it.


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