MSNBC Chooses Ratings Over Reputation

One of the hot topics we discussed today on the Morning Media Menu with our GalleyCat colleague Jason Boog was the stir caused by MSNBC’s failure over the weekend to turn the broadcast over to breaking news in Libya. Instead, the station decided to stick with its usual weekend fare: newsmagazine and documentary programming like Caught on Camera. So while the other networks were following the historic news at Khadafy/Qaddafi/Gaddafi’s regime, MSNBC had a thieving bear.

The backlash has been harsh, with Salon calling it “humiliating.” But an anonymous source tells Adweek that the station gets “huge ratings” from those shows and that some news desks go unmanned over the weekend.

MSNBC, and all news organizations, stake their reputation on bringing useful information to their audiences. And the 24-hour broadcast news cycle means you have to bring it up-to-the-minute.

No doubt, people would’ve watched coverage of the unfolding news in Libya had MSNBC brought it. (They turned to that news later in the evening.) And even if the folks who prefer to watch the shoplifting bear tuned out for a little while, it may have been better for the network’s reputation in the long run. The station had to defend itself for a similar situation earlier this year as well.