Open Letter to MSNBC – Today, you lost an Up with Steve Kornacki viewer. And here’s why.
Please feel free to comment. I will periodically forward comments to MSNBC.
And apologies in advance, I continue to have trouble making this wordpress.com skin insert decent visual breaks between paragraphs.
From: Steven Dorst
Subject: Today, you lost an Up with Steve Kornacki viewer. And here’s why.
Dear msnbcTVThis is an open letter that I will post on my blog (and include a link after my signature) and advertise it through the twitter #Uppers, #Nerdland, #Inners, #Maddow and #Disrupters communities. I will periodically update you with pertinent blog comments.Today, the final long segment on Up with Steve Kornacki was on how Twitter has changed the media. While what was presented was certainly germane, it completely failed to discuss, nor even to mention, how Twitter communities have grown and are beginning to exert their own influence. Savvy media people, especially in TV, are actively engaging these communities. You can easily see this on your network, especially on the #EdShow and #Disrupters tags and, to a lesser extent, on many of your other programs.Perhaps (almost certainly) the first such community on your network coalesced around Up with Chris Hayes using the hash tag #Uppers. It’s first use was in October, 2011. It was soon mentioned by Chris Hayes on the show, which caused it to expand quickly (it caused me to get up before 4:00 AM on Saturdays in order to live tweet the show when I had been recording it and watching later) and by December of 2011 the #Uppers hash tag was trending into the top 10 US hashtags during every show and occasionally hit #1. This continued for more than a year. In fact, it continued until you moved Chris to prime time and replaced him with Steve Kornacki. For the first few weeks, the popularity of the #Uppers tag continued, but it quickly went from positive comments about the show to complaints about the show. Since then? The count of #Uppers mentions has continually declined as former members of the #Uppers community tuned out, and the percentage of critical tweets has steadily grown.Congratulations. You’ve managed to turn your best free advertising into a forum that convinces people NOT to watch the show. I’m sure your advertisers appreciate this.So what happened? Many things. But four stand out in my mind:
- Up with Chris Hayes broke new ground in long form journalism on TV.While there were occasional shows that were primarily political, driven by either proximity to elections or to news that broke the previous week, the show was, for the most part, a shining beacon of in depth exploration of issues that was (and still is) sorely lacking in the rest of the TV landscape. Chris and his producers managed to treat most topics with intelligence, respect and most importantly: depth. We, the viewing audience, learned things from Up with Chris.Alas, this has been almost completely reversed since the show passed to Steve Kornacki. It’s rare that we see more than the same horse race politics that we can easily see elsewhere. And it’s rare that we see any depth to the stories, the exception being (mostly) when Steve explores the political history of an issue (or political outlook) as an introduction to a horse race.Don’t get me wrong. There are occasional great shows. The most recent was Steve’s examination of the 50th anniversary March on Washington. While I criticised it at the time (Saturday), the decision to hold off until Sunday was a good one. It allowed examination of the myriad of issues surrounding the march in a way that couldn’t have been done while the march was happening. And I offer my apologies for the Saturday criticism of Steve’s coverage. It was premature, wrong, and overtaken by Sunday’s show.However, the lack of a Latino member on the panel during that same Saturday coverage of immigration issues was, and still is, inexcusable. Which leads me to …
- GuestsChris Hayes publically stated, on more than one occasion, that he had one rule for his booking producers: NEVER have more than two white men on the panel. And while there may have been one or two panels that broke this rule, nonetheless the booking producers followed this rule and, I believe, went beyond it to gather the most diverse panels I’ve ever seen on any major network, broadcast or cable. They consistently reached out to the community there were reporting on and managed to book poor people when talking about poverty, foreclosed homeowners when talking about bank malfeasance in the mortgage industry, victims of police brutality, foreign nationals with points of view at odds with conventional wisdom, and many many more. We could count on seeing the point of view of the “little people”, the ones whose lives were (and are) affected by the choices our political establishment is making, the voices who are never heard on the other networks. More than anything, it was these points of view that caused us viewers to learn (see #1 above).Alas, these guest are conspicuous by their absence on Up with Steve.
- Challenging talking points.Chris Hayes consistently challenged (and on All In with Chris continues to challenge) any guest when they used talking points. He asked for supporting evidence and often presented contradictory evidence. While this happened most often with guests from the right end of the political spectrum, he also challenged people spouting left wing talking points. Challenging the right was more prevalent, but I’m assuming that this is due to the fact that the right wingers are far more likely to spout talking points than those on the left.Steve, on the other hand, most often lets talking points go completely unchallenged.
- Engagement with the Twitter community.Since before Steve started hosting, he has never – NEVER – personally tweeted using the #Uppers tag. And out of 1,100 tweets since April 3, 2013, his timeline has shown #Uppers only when he retweeted other people!Contrast this to Chris Hayes: While the website I used for the above search, SnapBird, isn’t set up for a comparable search of Chris Hayes’s timeline (for the last 5 months of Up with Chris), we members of the #Uppers community fondly remember Chris scanning our tweets during commercial breaks and often responding with a reply or retweet. And Chris occasionally used an #Uppers tweet to make a point on the show. Chris continues this today with the #Inners tag and, most especially, frequently devotes a short segment to stories brought to his attention through the #Click3 hashtag. ALL of these stories originated by his loyal #Inners twitter community.
Frankly, I’ve had all of these criticisms for quite a while. Were it not for the #Uppers twitter community (which often refers to itself as the #Uppers #TwitFam), I would have left long ago. Today’s failure to even acknowledge the existence of any Twitter community, much less the #Uppers, is simply the straw that broke this camel’s back.Despite all of this, I’m not completely gone. The #Uppers #TwitFam has become too important to me to completely disappear. But I just turned off the alarm on my smartphone that insured that I awoke early enough to participate. I’ll still turn on the show when I wake up, but as the days get shorter and sunrise gets later and later, I’ll be showing Up later and later. And if the segments don’t interest me, I’ll be exploring other options, especially Al Jazeera America – which I’ve already started watching in the minutes before All In with Chris Hayes instead of paying ANY attention to Chris Matthews. But that rant is for another day.Finally, here is the link to this letter on my blog: <disabled here – this IS the blog post! — Steve D>Sincerely,Steven Dorst