Report: MSNBC’s liberal leanings helped force NBC News to spend more on Romney campaign

September 3, 2013
The White House press room (Jason Reed / Reuters)
The White House press room (Jason Reed / Reuters)

How terribly conscious is NBC News of its connection to insistently progressive cable channel MSNBC? Totally terribly.

In a report for the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby attacks the challenge of providing meaningful campaign coverage in the age of Twitter, and uses coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney as a case study. A section outlining the costs of campaign-trail reporting notes that “most” television networks pulled back from their traveling coverage of vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan after he began to recede from the headlines. NBC News did not, however, for reasons that Hamby explains:

The network was the only one paying for a . . . five-person team to cover Ryan for the duration of the race even though their correspondent, Ron Mott, would go
days on end without making an appearance on network television.

NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said one reason for their expensive decision to cover both Romney and Ryan was that his network was “feeding four entities”—NBC, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo—in addition to MSNBC.com. He needed the manpower.

Todd also brought up the nakedly liberal leanings of MSNBC, the cable channel that broadcasts his political show every morning. “I had a chip on my shoulder,” Todd said, saying he did not want the news side of the network to be accused of “half-assing coverage” of Romney.

“It’s funny because if you talk to the Ryan people, they’re all like ‘Yep, NBC was always here,’” Todd said. “We have this one editorial page, shall we say, of our network that was a constant thorn in the side of Republicans. They just needed to know that NBC News was serious about making sure we were there every time.”

One national television network, notes Hamby, budgeted $55,000 per week to cover Romney; perhaps covering the vice president wasn’t quite as dear, but still, Todd’s comments suggest his employer paid a lot of cash in part for the purpose of keeping up appearances. Drop this one into the file of awkwardnesses in the corporate cohabitation of NBC News and MSNBC.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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Erik Wemple | September 3, 2013