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MSNBC’s Shift from Newschannel to POV Network

InsideCableNews, which digs into the on-the-air and behind-the-scenes inner workings of the cable news channels had a long — very long — piece about how MSNBC has metamorphosed from unbiased channel of news, to mostly one-sided network where expressing an opinion — especially from the political left — is advantageous, if not required. ICN observes a more recent shift to POV programming in the daytime hours.

The follow through to this new policy was and is uneven; some news hours have displayed it more flagrantly than others and some news anchors have appeared more predisposed to doing it than others. ICN has heard that there has been consternation in the newsroom regarding this POV/opinion push but that it was what [MSNBC president Phil] Griffin wanted. And, after all, Griffin runs MSNBC.

Why MSNBC is doing it is pretty simple. It works. In Q1 2012, MSNBC was the only cable news network to grow in Total Viewers compared to the year-ago quarter.

But is it worth it for the anchor who sees him or herself as an unbiased news reporter, being asked to express an opinion? Is it worth it for NBC News which can — and has — been tarnished by the opinion brought by its cable cousin?

Over the weekend, NBC News president Steve Capus talked with Reuters about the editing error in a Trayvon Martin story that left the impression of bias, but was explained as a “mistake.” Capus was asked about MSNBC host Al Sharpton who has put himself squarely in Trayvon Martin’s corner.

“Reverend Sharpton is a talk show host on MSNBC,” Capus said. “We believe there’s a distinction between the role he plays and our front line journalists who are part of NBC’s news gathering and reporting. This is a large news organization that has many people involved in any number of different aspects of coverage and commentary. That’s the distinction we’ve made as a news organization.”

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