Friday, August 29, 2008

Should Olbermann Find New Work?

Keith Olbermann considers himself in charge of all editorial content at MSNBC. If reporters, commentators and guest pundits do not align themselves with him on all ideological matters, they either lose their shows (Dan Abrams), find themselves banned from appearing on the network (Dana Milbank), or are just plain out of work (exactly where is Tucker Carlson these days?).

Now, Olbermann wants to expand his influence to other news organization. Associated Press writer Charles Babington wrote this analysis criticizing Barack Obama for not being specific in his speech last night. On excerpt is this:

But instead of dwelling on specifics, he laced the crowning speech of his long campaign with the type of rhetorical flourishes that Republicans mock and the attacks on John McCain that Democrats cheer. The country saw a candidate confident in his existing campaign formula: tie McCain tightly to President Bush, and remind voters why they are unhappy with the incumbent.

Olbermann's rants have a chilling effect on all journalists. Maybe not so much on a veteran writer such as Babington, but especially so on his colleagues at MSNBC. What if down the road you're a Chuck Todd or an Andrea Mitchell, and you have a legitimate news item that is either negative for Obama or positive for McCain. What do you do if you are appearing on Countdown (or any other MSNBC show for that matter)? If you report your news, and Olbermann's anywhere near a microphone, you risk being insulted on air (ask Joe Scarborough about that). If you keep your mouth shut and toe the Olbermann/Party line, you are a failure as a journalist.

People like Todd, Mitchell, Babington would most likely report any negative news about Obama, as long as it was a legitimate story, and take what might come. They are professionals and are among the best in the feild. But human nature is what it is. Nobody likes to be publicly scolded for doing their jobs (and doing them well). It would be an emotionally difficult decision for anybody.

What Olbermann is doing is forcing hard-working journalists to set an agenda -- his agenda. He's become nothing more than being MSNBC's ideological bully. If you don't play ball his way, you're banished from the schoolyard.

This is chilling for any news organization, especially one such as NBC, which has long prided itself on its fair-minded but hard-nose journalism. Olbermann is single handily tearing apart the network's reputation that was built by Huntley, Brinkley, Brokaw and Russert. As long as he can use his MSNBC microphone to advance his political agenda, viewers will see the network for what it has become: a bullhorn for Daily Kos.

Keith, maybe it's time you found new work.

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