We’re still trying to understand why MSNBC suspended its star host Keith Olbermann.
We’re not sure whether it was a disclosure issue (he failed to tell the network that he donated to political campaigns) or just a straight violation of policy (he wasn’t allowed to donate to campaigns). The one explanation that seems preposterous is that MSNBC is horrified that Olbermann betrayed a bias–Olbermann has never made any secret of his political views.
In any event, the New York Times speculates that the reason MSNBC benched Olbermann is that it wants to seem like it has higher standards than its big competitor, FOX News:
In suspending Mr. Olbermann, NBC appeared to be trying to differentiate itself from the Fox News Channel, a unit of the News Corporation. NBC executives privately said that they saw a chance to draw a distinction between the journalistic standards of their news division and the standards of Fox, a favourite of Republicans. Media Matters, a liberal media monitoring group that opposes Fox, noted on Friday afternoon that two Fox News hosts, Neil Cavuto and Sean Hannity, had given money to Republican politicians in the past.
If this is true–MSNBC views this as a chance to appeal to viewers by “drawing a distinction” between itself and FOX–this logic is ludicrous.
There is ALREADY a distinction between MSNBC and FOX: MSNBC is the Democratic / liberal news channel and FOX is the Republican / conservative news channel. (And, judging from the ratings, FOX is better at appealing to its base than MSNBC is at appearing to its own base.)
But THAT’s the distinction between the networks. It has nothing to do with journalistic standards–which, we suspect, most viewers actually don’t care much about, especially with respect to opinion-hosts like Olbermann.
And if MSNBC is somehow thinking that demonstrating higher journalistic integrity and/or neutrality than FOX is going to win ratings points, they ought to take a look at CNN. Journalistic integrity and neutrality has been CNN’s big selling point for years, and CNN viewers can’t change the channel fast enough.
MSNBC should just keep doing what it is already doing well: Being the left-leaning news network. If Olbermann didn’t disclose a campaign donation, fine–punish him. But MSNBC shouldn’t for a second think that any viewer will stop watching FOX and start watching MSNBC because it has demonstrated higher standards.
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