Ronna McDaniel, NBC and Newsroom Revolutions

Rachel Maddow discussing Ronna McDaniel on MSNBC

Medialand has been gripped by the meltdown at NBC over the last few days. A brief recap: NBC hired Ronna McDaniel to be a contributor on a £300,000 per year contract. She is a former chair of the RNC, essentially leading the Republican’s election efforts during the Trump era. Her hiring led to open revolt on the airwaves on NBC and sister station MSNBC and the company let her go.

Watching employees openly attack their employer on national television was quite staggering. On the iconic Meet The Press show, host Chuck Tood both interviewed McDaniel and criticised her hiring. Naturally, the most jaw-dropping moment came courtesy of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Here is just a portion of the A-Block in which she gave a history lesson as a means of hitting out at her bosses.

The fact that there is zero chance of Todd or Maddow losing their prestigious and well-paid gigs underlines the power that they have.

Ronna McDaniel Meltdown Couldn’t Happen Here

It has been fascinating watching the Ronna row/McDaniel meltdown play out on this side of the Atlantic. There are people others would not tolerate on the airwaves and more that others wish were not given a “platform”. However, it is unlikely that such a situation could ever arise in the UK. The TV host game and the paid contributor game are not the same here. Yes, there are some very famous, powerful hosts. Yes, we all know producers have their go-to contributors, but the culture is very different. (That said, if Sky News or BBC News want to offer me £300k to appear regularly please feel free to get in touch.)

Having a wide range of voices is important. As Dylan Byers noted for Puck:

There is an obvious logic to the hire: Despite her falling-out with Trumpworld, McDaniel has greater insight into this year’s election process and the state of the Republican Party than many of the veteran G.O.P. contributors who are at least a cycle or two removed from the game.

Whatever the logic, voices filling these kinds of roles need to be trustworthy. That was the crux of the issue in this case.

I am though always a bit wary of newsroom revolts. Upsetting your employees tends to be best avoided, especially when those employees are mouth journalists. However, leadership only going along with the newsroom sentiment can lead to a very samey, conventional culture in which certain things are just taken for granted because most people agree on them.

On balance, given Ronna McDaniel’s apparent role in trying to undermine the 2020 election, it seems wise not to give her huge money to be on a huge TV network. The question is, what happens next time some hosts and reporters don’t like who gets given a contributor contract?

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