MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry is the subject of this week’s “So What Do You Do?” column. In addition to noting her media idols (Bill Moyers, Gwen Ifill, Rachel Maddow) and her guilty TV pleasures (“House Hunters,” “Parks and Recreation”), Harris-Perry told us about how the show is produced, and whether ratings play a role.
Having a show with your name on it makes you a brand. Who decides the direction of the show, and how do you balance the network’s desire for ratings with your own vision?
I have never once had someone from this network come to me and have a conversation about ratings, good or bad. No one. Maybe they’re talking to my executive producer, and that’s completely possible. But none of them have ever walked in here and said, “You know what? You cannot do that because of the ratings” or “Please do that more because of the ratings.” I will say that I have been completely clear, to the point of being fanatical, that my staff is not to share with me ratings information. I don’t ever want to know because, for me, the point of doing this show is not about the ratings. But I can tell when it’s not been a good weekend just by looking at the staff the next week. It’s kind of like after President Obama had that bad showing in the debates, like you just know that nobody was walking around happy in [Obama campaign quarters] OFA 2012. So, I can kind of tell if I had a week that wasn’t great because people are kind of down but, if I had a week that’s great, people are in there bouncing around.