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’The piece goes on to note Griffin's denials. Elements of the story to notice:
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.” ...
- "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"
"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.'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.
"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...."
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.