Suicide Prevention? MSNBC Has Appointed Executive to Review Scripts Before Airtime

After a string of high-profile embarrassments, MSNBC appears to have decided that perhaps letting the inmates run the asylum is not the best of ideas.

According to a piece out today by National Review, the low-rated cable news channel has assigned an executive to review the scripts of its shows before they are aired as a way of trying to prevent such premeditated disasters like Martin Bashir wishing for Sarah Palin to be defecated upon.

The change appears to be the work of MSNBC president Phil Griffin, who despite years of letting his on-air talent run roughshod over him somehow has managed to maintain his job:

MSNBC, the left-leaning cable-news network, has settled on one solution to its recent problems. It now has an executive reviewing scripts before they go on the air. The role, which has fallen to Rich Stockwell, a former executive producer of The Ed Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann who now oversees special projects at the network, was created as several of the network’s hosts have, to the embarrassment of network brass, conducted a master class in political incorrectness. In recent months, Alec Baldwin, Martin Bashir, and, most recently, Melissa Harris-Perry have awkwardly crashed into the trinity of sexual orientation, gender, and race, leading many to wonder if there are any adults in charge at MSNBC.

There is one such adult, actually, and her name is Rachel Maddow. Though she provides the network’s ideological vision — MSNBC president Phil Griffin has called her “our quarterback” — she’s neither an executive nor a manager. Griffin, who wears both hats, is, from all appearances, letting the inmates run the asylum. Meanwhile, the network that Griffin has labeled “the place for progressives” is experiencing a free fall in its ratings, which are down 29 percent from 2012. A decline was expected after a presidential-election year, but MSNBC’s competitors did not suffer as acutely. Fox News was down only 5 percent in total viewers (it suffered far more in the coveted 25–54 demographic, where the network has persistently struggled); CNN’s numbers, under the stewardship of newly installed president Jeff Zucker, remained flat. […]

The new step of having Rich Stockwell review scripts before they air is an attempt to impose order on the chaos reigning at the network. “Phil was a producer, trained from the beginning to accommodate hosts — he’s incapable of reining these guys in,” says a former colleague. He points to Olbermann, who left the network after spinning out of control three years ago. Though network executives said the relationship between Olbermann and MSNBC had been deteriorating for a long time, Griffin’s former colleague describes Olbermann, now at ESPN, as a broadcaster who was “talented as hell” and who “could have been an enduring star if Phil had been strong enough to keep him between the lines.” Instead, he says, “Phil let him destroy himself.” Griffin’s current challenge, it appears, is to keep Rachel Maddow from running roughshod over the network in a similar fashion as she seeks to remake it in her image.

Do read the whole thing. It's chock full of interesting information.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013