In the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016, MSNBC had at least two clear options: It could respond to a swelling progressive viewer base by moving left, or it could keep playing the Beltway game and move right, loading up with #NeverTrump Republicans, and dumping actual progressives. In choosing the latter — albeit with a head-fake — the news channel has significantly skewed its coverage, to the detriment of progressive politics and its own viewers.
Oh, there’s plenty of Trump-bashing to please MSNBC’s booming viewer base. But it’s often a cheap thrill, giving scant or no attention to what made Trump’s presidency possible in the first place, let alone the challenge of building a coherent alternative. The channel is currently riding enjoying a ratings high, despite its leadership’s centrist intentions, but that’s no formula for the long haul, either for MSNBC or America.
“Without doubt, it’s Trump and his antics that have provided MSNBC’s ratings boom.” said Jeff Cohen, author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.” “A President Hillary Clinton would have continued our country’s unequal and militaristic status quo, and all the apologizing for her on MSNBC would have led to boring TV and lousy ratings.”
Cohen founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986 (I was an early FAIR volunteer) and later worked on-air at CNN and Fox and as a producer for Phil Donahue at MSNBC, before Donahue’s show axed for political reasons on the brink of the Iraq war (more on that below). Currently director at the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, Cohen belongs to the long but sparse tradition of independent progressives who’ve spent time …read more