Olbermann’s Raw Deal
The rapidity with which MSNBC bounced Olbermann from the network begs several questions: What did he do that other journalists haven't done? Why now? And why should MSNBC all of a sudden feign an interest in impartiality?
November 5, 2010 - 5:32 pm
How can you “breach” something that exists only in the minds of arrogant popinjays who think that journalism is a “calling”? One assumes the humanity of reporters — normally — and therefore they cannot be immune from the biases shared by everyone else. Editors, whose job description includes removing as much bias as possible from a story, generally share the point of view of their reporters and are either too lazy or too blinded to their own prejudices to recognize bias when it pops up in someone else’s work. In the end, journalists are about as “independent” as Eastern Europe was during the Cold War. You don’t have to scratch very far below the surface to reveal the nauseating hypocrisy that is contributing to the end of journalism as we know it.
Olbermann’s punishment does not fit the crime. He violated company policy — a policy rooted in fantasy and outmoded notions of journalists as ink-stained cavaliers of fairness and justice. It may be elevating to believe in “independence,” but it isn’t practical.
And this is just cause to kick Olbermann off the air? And why now? William Kristol wonders if NBC’s parent company, General Electric, isn’t trying to curry favor with the new GOP majority in the House. More likely, as Bryan Preston points out, since Olbermann’s ratings have been tanking, his prickly presence in the newsroom has caused enormous friction with both on-air and behind-the-camera staff. MSNBC President Phil Griffin may have taken the opportunity afforded by Olbermann’s transgression to send the Kos-darling packing, ridding himself of this meddlesome high priest of hyperbole.
Beyond that, Griffin cannot be unaware that his new bosses at Comcast have been shaking up NBC’s top brass, and that Olbermann’s ethics problems don’t reflect well on him. Perhaps this was a move to lance a boil before it suppurated and caused his own departure.
It would have been nice to see Olbermann exit the old-fashioned way: driven from his job after trying the patience of America with his ignorant ranting and because nobody could stand listening to his shtick anymore. But the entire affair smacks of overkill. Jonah Goldberg writes:
Whether or not such rules make sense for actual reporters, such rules are silly for someone like Olbermann. Does anybody, and I mean anybody, suddenly trust Olbermann’s opinion less because of this news? I’m waiting. Does anyone think he’s less biased? More biased? Un-biased?
Second, the larger problem with these kinds of rules is that they do little to prevent media bias and a great deal to hide an important form of evidence of it. Banning liberal journalists from giving money doesn’t prevent them from being liberal, it just gives them a bit more plausibility when they deny it.
With MSNBC not even trying to pretend to be impartial anymore, one wonders about the ethics of a company that overtly promotes a political point of view and then punishes an employee when they act on that bias.