New York Times Admits 'MSNBC's Leftward Tilt,' But Presents NBC News Shows as Neutral!

May 17th, 2024 11:22 AM

The New York Times devoted nearly 3,000 words by writer-at-large Jim Rutenberg and media reporter Michael Grynbaum to a topic rarely acknowledged: Media bias from the left, in “How MSNBC’s Leftward Tilt Delivers Ratings, and Complications.” (Right-leaning Fox News, by contrast, is a constant target of the paper’s hostility.)

But what does it say about the paper’s own tilt when its reporters constantly appear on the left-wing airwaves of MSNBC? The story began:

MSNBC placed a big bet on becoming comfort TV for liberals. Then it doubled down.

Time slots on the cable network once devoted to news programming are now occupied by Trump-bashing opinion hosts. The channel has become a landing spot for high-profile alumni of President Biden’s administration like Jen Psaki, who went from hosting White House press briefings to hosting her own show. On Super Tuesday, when producers aired a portion of a live speech by former President Donald J. Trump, Rachel Maddow chastised her bosses on the air.

The moves have been a hit with viewers. MSNBC has leapfrogged past its erstwhile rival CNN in the ratings and has seen viewership rise over the past year, securing second place in cable news behind the perennial leader, Fox News.

The unintentionally funny part is when NBC News suggested MSNBC was ruining it branding as "straight news." Who believes that any more? 

But MSNBC’s success has had unintended consequences for its parent company, NBC, an original Big Three broadcaster that still strives to appeal to a mass American audience.

NBC’s traditional political journalists have cycled between rancor and resignation that the cable network’s partisanship — a regular target of Mr. Trump — will color perceptions of their straight news reporting. 

NBC faced "tensions" in an election year, on "how to maintain trust and present neutral, fact-based reporting in a fractionalized era when partisanship carries vast financial and cultural rewards."

The report talked about how they tried to take some of the hyperpartisan tone out in the last decade by moving Al Sharpton to weekends, bringing Greta Van Susteren over from Fox, and creating a daily version of Meet the Press. But then Donald Trump showed up, and even those cosmetic shifts were scuttled:

Then, Mr. Trump’s ascent shocked the Democratic base and spiked viewership of Ms. Maddow and other left-leaning hosts, whose programs became a kind of televised safe space. MSNBC’s ratings surged.

The story centered on NBC News boss Cesar Conde and how he's tried to bring Republican voices on NBC, including the brief Ronna McDaniel Debacle, and Kristen Welker's incredibly combative interview with Donald Trump on her debut at Meet the Press host. The Left has a fit any time NBC interviews Republicans, and so the interviewers end up sounding fiercely oppositional. 

At least, Rutenberg and Grynbaum acknowledged that MSNBC was “tightly embracing its partisan direction” by hiring Biden press secretary Jen Psaki and another Biden aide, Symone Sanders: “It was the kind of revolving-door hiring that liberal pundits used to criticize when it happened with Fox News and the Trump administration.”

Left out of the long story were any mentions of the myriad Times reporters (including authors Rutenberg and Grynbaum themselves) that have appeared as guest talent on the "comfort food for liberals" channel during the Trump era and beyond, presumably contributing to what the Times itself calls the network’s “leftward tilt.” some with contributor contracts.

A partial list of Times journalists who’ve appeared on MSNBC in recent years would include Susan Craig, Nicholas Kristof, Nicholas Confessore, Katie Benner, Jeremy Peters, Annie Karni, Carl Hulse, Michael Schmidt, Nicholas Confessore, Jeremy Peters, Mike Isaac, Megan Twohey, as well as the story’s authors Jim Rutenberg and Michael Grynbaum (the article contained no disclosure of their previous MSNBC appearances).

Appearances by Times scribes are much thinner on right-leaning Fox News, though ex-NYT staffer Nellie Bowles did appear on America’s Newsroom on Wednesday to promote her eyebrow-raising criticism of wokeness, including some bizarre anecdotes from her days at the Times.