Nerdland Forever

Melissa Perry-Harris, formerly of MSNBC, was one of the premier minority voices on a major news network. Her loss will be felt dramatically. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Perry-Harris' Twitter)

Recently, a friend suggested that the campaign to be President of the United States is simply too long and too sensationalized. While I agreed with him on certain issues of our political system and media coverage, I could have never anticipated the most recent loss that minority voices have faced in our political spectrum.

It is the end of an era.

Melissa Harris-Perry has decided to leave MSNBC.

In an email sent out to her coworkers, Harris-Perry explained that she would not be appearing on the show this past weekend. The decision came after producers told Harris-Perry that her show would be pre-empted for election coverage for the “foreseeable future”.

During Super Bowl Sunday coverage, Harris-Perry was instructed to speak mostly about the presidential elections. While she and her guests had an in depth discussion about the ‘Formation’ video, coverage of rallies for Jeb Bush and Chris Christie in New Hampshire played in a box on screen as well.

What is happening to Melissa Harris-Perry cannot be conflated to race. She herself has stated that she doesn’t think anything is happening to her because she is a black person. What is happening, however, is a prioritization of sensational election coverage. In a series of tweets written by Harris-Perry yesterday, she commented on the need for diverse voices discussing politics. MSNBC has fallen into the dangerous pattern of encouraging sensationalized news rather than productive discourse.

An NBC News spokesman stated “In this exciting and unpredictable presidential primary season, many of our daytime programs have been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage, including M.H.P. This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing.”  What is truly surprising, confusing, and disappointing is that a media outlet would disregard the diverse range of political commentary offered by the MHP Show in favor of tabloid like wall-to-wall coverage of the latest outrageous platform offered by our clown show of candidates.

This election cycle, in particular, has had divisive rhetoric brought forth that requires diverse faces and spaces to offer commentary more than ever. Without these faces and spaces, whitewashed and gender homogenized coverage will focus on the most superficial and sensational talking points in the rhetoric rather than substantial critique.

Furthermore, to imply that during an election, viewers should be bombarded with wall-to-wall coverage of political commentary is simply irresponsible journalism. To insist that the Black Lives Matter Movement and Formation video take a back seat while we watch footage of rallies is ridiculous. The network’s lack of understanding on how social justice and policy must continue to interact is astounding.

It is becoming increasingly clear that our campaign cycles are in fact, too long, and too sensationalized. When Harris-Perry wrote that “I care only about substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work” she did so because mass media is no longer allowing for news coverage of elections to be those things.

Instead of addressing these concerns, MSNBC has attempted to pass off what happened to Melissa Harris-Perry as a normal product of the election cycle. This is not just a threat to the MHP show’s autonomy. It is a danger to our democracy.  Despite how it may benefit a network’s ratings to reduce our presidential election to puff pieces, sensationalized headlines, and rally footage, it does nothing to inform voters.

What does inform voters are shows that offer commentary on social justice as well as politics. It should matter to voters that an unapologetically black woman brings in guests from diverse backgrounds to offer their perspectives. These voices are not centered elsewhere, despite the fact that they look like many voters.

What should matter perhaps even more, however, is how surprised MSNBC was at a show host who dared to speak out against the political machine. There is something to be said about the spectrum of our news outlets when this level of silencing is business as usual during the primary. 


Haddiyyah Ali is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at haddiyyah.ali@uconn.edu.