WAPO's News Media Critic Blasts MSNBC - Mostly 'Volunteer Lefty Blather'

"Sure you can, you’re the host — it’s your job to cut off the Republican guy!"

Eric Wemple is the news media critic for the progressive leaning Washington Post. In a column published on Monday called "MSNBC all day long: Lefty volunteerism, reporting, fluff," Wemple writes about the daytime lineup of MSNBC after spending  December 13th watching the network.

He wasn't very impressed. The only exception was when there was an opportunity to cover real news, a shooting at Arapahoe High School in Colorado. According to Wemple​ "MSNBC handled the coverage admirably," and "Team NBC/MSNBC ladled out facts only as they became firm."

The columnist didn't have much nice to say about the rest of the MSNBC daytime programming:

In our Dec. 13 viewing hours, MSNBC aired around 170 minutes of content that we’ll call political — chiefly, segments on gun-control legislation, voting rights, the splintered Republican Party and so on. That was about twice the amount of non-political content — the chicken family, interviews with family members of Newtown victims, Beyonce’s December surprise, etc. In the initial count, we threw foreign affairs into the non-political column; if you consider that coverage political, the numbers skew even more lopsidedly toward MSNBC’s political obsession.

He gives the example of Chris Jansing letting a Democratic Party guest speak about gun control for a minute without interruption, but when she threw it to the Republican:

Jansing stopped him at 10:32:47, when Watkins wasn’t even 10 seconds into his opening salvo. Jansing big-footed: “You say that, but nothing’s done to change. Can I just show you some numbers…” Sure you can, you’re the host — it’s your job to cut off the Republican guy!

Wemple was particularly harsh on Alex Wagner (who is moving to the 4pm slot in January). December 13th the day he watched was the day Wagner interviewed Nancy Pelosi. An interview that started with the questions, "Are you surprised by the recent onslaught of legislation specifically targeting women coming from your Republican colleagues in Washington?" and "What is it, do you think, that keeps them on this anti-woman crusade or that wants to rewind the clock so many years?"

Wagner’s invitation to speculate on the nefarious motives of the Republicans should count as a campaign contribution to Pelosi. Such a question, after all, packs two great PR opportunities for Pelosi. First, she gets to accept a great premise — that the Republicans are on an anti-woman crusade. Second, she gets to do something that’d never be allowed in a court of law, or even in a more rigorous journalistic environment, which is to attach her own speculation to the motives of an entire group of people.

A hard-edged interview with the minority leader is clearly not what the “Now” team had in mind for this special women-in-politics show. The idea, it appears, was to allow Pelosi to tell everyone what a tough woman she is. Okay, but why not showcase Pelosi’s rough-and-tumbleness by challenging her, by pressing her on her political vulnerabilities? And why not showcase Wagner’s own interviewing muscles? 

Eric Wemple goes on the review the entire 9a-4p section of MSNBC programming on different criteria and ends with the words of MSNBC head honcho Phill Griffin:

More from Griffin: “I think the one thing you can say is that at MSNBC we’re honest to our viewers, we correct mistakes, we don’t put out slogans that are meaningless — ‘We report, you decide’ — and we’re not going to say if we want a candidate to win, that candidate is going to win,” he says.

The upshot is that MSNBC brass is not claiming that its dayside work is straight-up-the-middle reporting. Only in the cesspool of cable news is not lying about the premise of your programming a selling point.

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