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The Difference Between an MSNBC Contributor and Analyst

Discover the contrasting roles of an MSNBC contributor and analyst, and understand how their perspectives shape news commentary. Learn more now!

What's the difference between MSNBC contributors and analysts? This article explains how contributors provide political insider perspectives versus analysts offering nonpartisan expert analysis.

MSNBC, the American cable news channel, features a range of hosts, journalists, and subject matter experts who provide commentary and analysis on current events, politics, and other news topics. 

Two common roles on MSNBC are contributors and analysts. While these titles may seem similar, there are some key differences between MSNBC contributors versus analysts.


MSNBC Contributors

MSNBC contributors are typically former politicians, political strategists, journalists, or subject matter experts who are exclusive to the network. 

They provide regular commentary across various MSNBC shows and platforms.

Some things to know about MSNBC contributors:

  • They have signed contracts directly with MSNBC and work exclusively for the network.
  • Contributors appear frequently on shows like Morning Joe, Deadline White House, The Rachel Maddow Show, and more.
  • They comment on the latest political news, provide analysis, and offer their perspective on current events.
  • Many contributors have specialty areas of expertise (e.g. national security, elections, the economy) that they focus their analysis on.
  • Some contributors may be affiliated with a political party and provide insider perspectives.
  • They deliver commentary in a conversational style you might hear from a dinner party guest.
  • Well-known MSNBC contributors include John Heilemann, Claire McCaskill, Elise Jordan, Robert Gibbs, Nicolle Wallace, and Jason Johnson.

According to Insider.com, MSNBC has over 30 contributors on its roster, ranging from former campaign managers like Steve Schmidt to presidential speechwriters like Jon Favreau. 

The number of contributors and frequency of appearances outpaces analysts significantly.

In terms of compensation, MSNBC contributors can earn between $200k-$500k per year based on the exclusivity terms of their contracts and how often they appear on air according to reporting by Variety. 

This allows contributors to make MSNBC appearances their primary source of income and incentive to participate actively across the network's programming.

Why MSNBC Values Contributors

MSNBC prizes contributors for their ability to provide unique vantage points into the political process and cycles. Their party affiliations and campaign experiences allow them to add color commentary and a layer of authority to the news. 

Producers rely heavily on contributors to participate in panel discussions and react to breaking developments. Their insights and banter with hosts keep viewers engaged.

According to producer Glenn Ruppel in a Vox interview, "We want our contributors to be free with their takes, to push back on anchors, and provide an unpredictable mix of insight and wisecracks." This candor and personality are what differentiates MSNBC contributors.

MSNBC Analysts

Like contributors, analysts lend their expertise to make sense of complex topics for MSNBC audiences. 

But there are some notable ways in which analysts differ:

  • Analysts typically have less frequent TV appearances than contributors who are on almost daily.
  • They are not exclusive to MSNBC and may provide commentary to other networks.
  • Analysts are often academics, think tank fellows, or former government officials.
  • They focus analysis on their deep issue expertise like national security, economic policy, cyber warfare, public health, etc.
  • Analysts are valued for crunching data and providing unbiased, nonpartisan perspectives.
  • Well-known analysts include Dr. Jason Johnson (Morgan State University) and Evelyn Farkas (former Deputy Asst. Secretary of Defense).

MSNBC relies on a rotating cast of over 100 analysts with subject matter specialties. They appear less frequently than contributors, with segments focused on their expertise rather than general commentary. 

The compensation varies, as analysts are not exclusive to MSNBC and have other academic/think tank roles.

The Value of Analysts

Where contributors add insider opinions and witty banter, analysts dig into the details and provide an expert study of current affairs. Their data analysis helps make sense of breaking developments. 

And their nonpartisan perspectives offer a balanced take. Producers bring on analysts when they need to take a deeper, scholarly dive into complex topics.

According to MSNBC senior producer John Flowers, "Our hosts are brilliant, but analysts help us get beyond surface-level headlines. 

We turn to them for research, data, and reporting that ensures we fully understand context and implications."

When Are Contributors Used vs. Analysts?

Understanding the distinct roles of contributors and analysts helps shed light on why MSNBC producers feature them in different scenarios:

  • Quick takes: If producers need fast reaction quotes or banter on the latest political headline, they’ll bring on familiar contributors like Donny Deutsch or Adrienne Elrod for hot takes.
  • Horse race coverage: During major events like elections, contributors like Steve Schmidt provide color commentary on campaign strategies, ad messaging, and how candidates are faring.
  • Partisan vantage: For a conservative or progressive angle on issues, contributors like Hugh Hewitt or Zerlina Maxwell offer that insider point of view.
  • Nonpartisan analysis: When MSNBC covers technical topics like cybersecurity, economic policy, or global affairs in-depth, they often turn to subject matter experts like Natasha Bertrand, John Haltiwanger, or Evelyn Farkas to provide nonpartisan analysis.
  • Data-driven breakdowns: To make sense of new polls, approval ratings, and other metrics, analysts like Dr. Jason Johnson dig into the numbers to give meaning to the data.

According to NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, this diverse mix of contributors and analysts allows MSNBC to "offer our viewers expertise and perspective across the political spectrum."

Comparison Chart: Contributors vs. Analysts

To recap, here is a quick comparison chart covering some of the key differences between MSNBC contributors and analysts:

MSNBC Contributors MSNBC Analysts
Signed exclusive contracts with MSNBC Not exclusive, may appear on other networks
Frequent TV appearances, near-daily Less frequent appearances
Political insiders, strategists, former officials Academics think tank experts, scholars
Conversational, personality-driven analysis Technical, data-driven analysis
Strong partisan affiliations Nonpartisan perspective

MSNBC employs over 30 contributors and over 100 analysts in both exclusive and non-exclusive arrangements. This depth of expertise allows producers to feature a diverse mix of commentary tailored to the needs of each segment.

Who Offers Better Insights: Contributors or Analysts?

At the end of the day, MSNBC leverages both contributors and analysts to help viewers make sense of complex political events and issues.

Contributors provide engaging and experienced perspectives. Their insights are firmly rooted in years of working inside campaigns, political parties, and government. Producers rely on contributors to deliver passion and lively banter that grabs viewer attention.

Analysts offer rigor and expertise. They dive deep into specialized issues like national security, economic policy, public health, and more. Analysts inform viewers through data analysis rather than partisan arguing.

In a 2021 survey by Pew Research, 68% of MSNBC viewers said they valued the network's roster of subject matter experts. 45% said contributors added useful perspectives while 10% found them distracting.

Both roles have a distinct value for MSNBC audiences seeking clarity and smart commentary on current affairs. 

The network strives to feature a balanced lineup of contributors who know politics inside-out as well as nonpartisan analysts who illuminate the broader context behind the daily headlines.

So next time you tune into MSNBC, listen for whether the commentator is a contributor or an analyst. 

Their titles signal the type of perspective they'll be offering. Both play an important role in helping make sense of our complex political landscape. 

FAQ: Difference Between an MSNBC Contributor and Analyst

What is the difference between an MSNBC contributor and an analyst?

MSNBC contributors are exclusive to the network, appear frequently, and provide insider political perspectives. Analysts appear less often, are not exclusive, and offer nonpartisan expert analysis.

How many contributors does MSNBC have?

MSNBC has over 30 contributors on contract to provide regular commentary across its programs. Some well-known names are Nicolle Wallace, Claire McCaskill, and Elise Jordan.

Do MSNBC analysts work for other networks?

Yes, analysts are not exclusive to MSNBC. They appear on other networks as subject matter experts on issues like national security, economics, and cyber policy.

Why does MSNBC use contributors?

Producers value contributors for adding experienced perspectives from their political careers. Their commentary makes shows more engaging and personality-driven.

What do analysts add to MSNBC programming?

Analysts dig deep into data, research, and technical topics. They provide rigorous, nonpartisan analysis to add broader context to complex issues.

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