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And now, a comment on Keith Olbermann

By Ezra Klein

I was flying to Spain when MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann. And then, before I sat down to write this post, Phil Griffin, the network's president, announced that Olbermann would be returning on Tuesday. As an MSNBC contributor who frequently appears on Olbermann's program, I was glad to miss the controversy. But it's also one that deserves comment. Not a special comment, maybe. But a comment.

The rule Olbermann broke, put simply, is this: Employees of NBC news -- and this appears to cover MSNBC employees as well -- cannot donate to political campaigns without the express permission of their superiors. Doing so would compromise their objectivity.

But would it? Consider the exemptions we know about: Joe Scarborough was allowed to donate to the candidacy of a dear friend. Other employees seem to have been given similar license. But from the standpoint of objectivity, that seems, if anything, worse: Friendship is infinitely more harmful to objectivity than ideological affinity. My support for politicians relies on my reasoned judgments about the quality of their agendas. My support for friends rests on a far sturdier foundation. It's easy to criticize a politician. It's hard to criticize a friend.

That's not an argument against Scarborough, or even against having friends in politics. It's an argument against the particular conception of "objectivity" -- and the particular method we've chosen for its protection -- that gave rise to this rule.

Hunter S. Thompson once said that "the only thing I ever saw that came close to Objective Journalism was a closed-circuit TV setup that watched shoplifters in the General Store at Woody Creek, Colorado." So the profession has improvised: Since there aren't journalists without opinions, we went for the next best thing: journalists whose opinions weren't visible. That's where rules like the prohibition on donations come from. The problem with donations isn't that the act of donating gives you opinions. It's that it lets the audience in on opinions that already exist. But not having opinions and not admitting opinions are not the same thing. In fact, they're not even close.

When journalism admitted that the existence of opinions discredited journalists, it made it all too easy to discredit journalists. Conservative elites spent decades convincing their followers that the news media were secretly liberal. They did this largely by arguing that journalists were personally liberal. Liberals have, in more recent times, worked to convince their followers that the media is so afraid of being accused of liberalism that it now tilts conservative. Paid researchers for both sides trawl through the personal and public lives of reporters to find evidence of "bias." And as Facebook and OpenSecrets.org and blogs and e-mails and other forms of digital information have brought more personal information into the public sphere, their job has become easier and easier.

The problem isn't bias, however. It's "bias." Bias, according to Dictionary.com, is a tendency "that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question." For a reporter, that would be a problem. But a donation or an opinion isn't evidence of bias. It's what normal human beings call "opinions," or even "conclusions." They're the things that come out of "unprejudiced consideration of a question," and they don't prevent you from offering the audience the evidence and information necessary to make their own unprejudiced considerations of a question.

There's nothing particularly difficult about having opinions and faithfully presenting the evidence that helped you form them: Teachers have opinions, but they often give their students the information necessary to make up their own minds. Doctors do it for their patients, workers do it for their bosses, consultants do it for their clients, the chief of staff does it for the president. In all those jobs, part of the work is to present information and options, and then part of the work is to make recommendations. But the two functions are different.

It's only in journalism where the fact of having opinions supposedly undermines the ability to present information. But that's not just wrong -- it's counterproductive. One way to root out real bias is to increase the very thing that the hunt for "bias" prevents: transparency. If you know what people actually think, it's easier to tell whether they're stacking the deck to advantage their position. Conversely, if they're implying to you that they don't think anything, and then you find out that they do have opinions, you might feel betrayed -- even though there's no evidence that their work is slanted. That's the situation we often find ourselves in now.

Olbermann's case is even simpler, as he's not even supposed to be impartial: He made donations to two liberal candidates in Arizona, and then to Rand Paul's opponent. His contributions corresponded perfectly with the expressed opinions of his show. In that way, they told you something important: He believes what he's saying. These are his judgments, not his ratings strategy. If we were looking at his donations from the standpoint of transparency, we'd be comforted: There's no evidence that he's not playing straight with us.

The problem was that he broke one of his network's rules. Now the punishment is over, and a lot of people -- myself included -- will be glad to see him back on the air come Tuesday night. But it's also a good time to ask whether the rule that got everybody into this mess really makes much sense.

By Ezra Klein  | November 8, 2010; 9:26 AM ET
 
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Comments

EK:

Welcome back. Karl Smith did an excellent job in your absence and that's high praise given that you know my opinion of university economists.

The real mystery is given that Olbermann is smug, pretentious, generally insufferable and has a tiny audience of about 300,000 viewers a night, why did they WANT him back?

Posted by: 54465446 | November 8, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Back when we had lots of newspapers, every city had what was known to all as a Republican newspaper and what was known to all as a Democratic newspaper. People bought the newspaper that shaped and supported their views, and ignored the other paper[s] (unless those other papers happened to break a story on a juicy sex scandal or something else non-political but always a sure-fired paper-seller).

Most cities can barely support one paper now, so I guess we can't go back to those good old days.

But why shouldn't we have partisan networks instead? If NBC/MSNBC had the nerve, they could have in MSNBC a true foil to Fox -- and a ratings booster, if they actually put some nerve behind MSNBC.

Posted by: S1VA | November 8, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

So, Keith Olbermann donated some cash to a couple of Democratic candidates? I am shocked. SHOCKED!

Conflict of interest? Please. He should have donated to the candidacies of Michelle Bachmann or Rand Paul. Now THAT would have constituted a conflict of interest!

Could it be that the suits at MSNBC thought they had finally found the excuse they needed in order to silence the most lethal progressive voice broadcasting in the main stream media today? Remember, that network didn’t “go left” a few years ago out of any ideological conviction. It was purely a business decision on their part. After all, they had one time given a forum to Michael Wiener Savage among other people…

“Alan Keyes Is making Sense”. Remember that little early evening atrocity from about a decade ago?

“Watch It with Laura Ingram”. Remember that monumental televised train wreck?

MSNBC eventually realized that they couldn’t outfox FOX Noise so they went to the left out of sheer desperation. It turned out to be a damned good move on their part. Maybe they thought they could finally afford to dump the most visible thorn in the side of the right wing plutocracy. The jokes on them They couldn't!

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Posted by: tomdeganfrontiernetnet | November 8, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Welcome Back as well Ezra.

My take on the subject this weekend revolves around the other groups like Think Progress who jumped all over this and assumed Comcast had shunned Keith to shut down liberals everywhere and TP then rose to liberals defense only to shortly after their tirade come to the realization that Comcast has NO SAY yet as to what MSNBC does.

My basic point here is that when you scream FIRE in a crowded theater you can hours later say "whoops, no fire here" but you've still caused a lot of damage that can't be undone. that's what giving idealogues a voice has done to the detriment of discussion. Sure idiots should have a voice but their voice should be taken into context as to who is saying it. That goes for Think Progress as well as it does for idiots at Fox.

Posted by: visionbrkr | November 8, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

He obviously knows the Company rules, consequently it's more like " Putting your money where your mouth is".

Posted by: a1activist | November 8, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Mr Klein,
Once again you miss the point - the rule was made by the station - and Olberman flaunted it. What's so difficult to understand about that? Your ridiculous arguments about how ludicrous the rule is, is ludicrous itself. It's the station's right to make the rules - and if they change them so be it. But knocking Fox and others to try and justify Mr Olberman's bad behavior - is bad behavior on your part. We'll all see which way the station flows when Comcast takes over completely - but my thinking is they'd like to make a profit, so the all left all the time talk may cease.

Posted by: Mjarcana | November 8, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I agree with your column completely, but have one issue with Olbermann's donations. I think it crosses a line when you hand someone a check the day they appear on your show.

Posted by: emmkay | November 8, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Why is it when liberals make the rules? It is okay to break the rules. They make the rules for taxes and then break them. Rules for code of conduct and then break them. Save the planet and jet set around the world.

Posted by: bibol | November 8, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Olbermann's campaign contribution plight is a manufactured "red herring." The real reason he was placed on indefinite suspension was because his nightly viewer ratings are absolutely dreadful.

This was just a polite way to get rid of the man without...you know...[wink, wink, nudge, nudge]...really having to do anything "illegal" with regard to his contract. This action saves money and avoids the prospect of messy litigation over wrongful terminations. Sorry Keithie, but it was never personal. It was just business.

And so it goes...

Posted by: pgould1 | November 8, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Every employee of MSNBC should be able donate money to Democrats or Republicans if they wish. That is same like voting or contributing with your stories against Democrats or against Republicans.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | November 8, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget the issue of check book journalism. If political sources come to demand contributions before they grace a journalist's interview, nothing confrontational will ever reach the airwaves. Olberman was funding underdogs that impressed him shortly before the election- nothing ominous to me, but greed in political fundraising seems to know no end.

Posted by: wkwv1 | November 8, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

WHICH OF THESE STORIES WILL YOU BE TALKING ABOUT TOMORROW!!!!

Can't wait, I like this show.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | November 8, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

@Mjarcana--I think you mean *flouted*, not flaunted. Different words, different meanings.

Also, if you read Ezra's column a little more carefully, you'll see that he acknowledges that Olbermann broke the company's rules and further, that the punishment was over and that he was glad to see him coming back tomorrow.

Finally, it is not "bad behavior" to criticize a media outlet that promotes itself as "fair and balanced" but is so openly contemptuous of one side of the political spectrum and so financially and editorially slanted toward the other. It's simply stating the truth.

Posted by: litbrit | November 8, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

very good post, ezra.

and many thanks to boldprogressives.org and the other internet sponsored petitions that circulated, and snowballed hundreds of thousands of signatures, and gave information on where to call, so we could actually speak with humans.
the same thing happened with breitbart, and i think these massive petitions, and ability to organize, makes a difference.
i would have found it very chilling if keith olbermann hadnt returned. his passionate conviction to his principles, and his humanity as reflected in his conviction to social causes, his devoted readings in memory of his father, are all very heartfelt.
there have been "special comments," where i have stood up and cheered him, for saying to an audience, things that i felt, and reaching so many people with a kindred message, where when i said it, only my little dog was listening.
i think keith olbermann speaks from the heart, for many of us.
i am very glad that he is back, and i am going to buy a celebratory cupcake in his honor, and eat it during his show!!!

on a sidenote, i understand his sentimental loyalty to thurber, but what about choosing some snippets from other great american authors and poets....or even having them briefly appear in that segment, to read something of their own brilliant works?
we have much brilliance and creativity...that little segment could be a showcase.

welcome back, keith!!!!

Posted by: jkaren | November 8, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Ezra hit it on the head. It's a fantasy to think that any human will be utterly totally, (mechanically) in every way-shape-form... objective. Look at the Supreme Court.... Sheesh. As the body charged to determine this in confirmation hearings, The Senate has proven completely incapable of determining the impartiality of Justices. And that's the "SUPREME" court!

Our judicial system SAYS money equals speech. Every major ruling in the past 40 years supports this.

So as free citizens, why care that journalists of any stripe simply exercise their right to support the candidate of their choice...privately with a completely legal donation?

Posted by: tomperri | November 8, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Obermann, NBC. and the Post all deserve each other! Obermannn serves no useful purpose as a host with his smug, egotistical, snide, and inaccurate comments, just as CNBC serves as an example of what a network should not be, a slanted and clouded news station that hires hosts with far left views that most people cannot stand to listen to!! And the Post, a once respected company who has crowded their paper with far too many left thinking journalists! Most Americans lean toward clear view politics which the likes of an Obermann, CNBC, and the Post cannot or do not present!

Posted by: donn09 | November 8, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

tomperri beat me to it a bit, but the only thing I'd add to Ezra's post is that we have largely similar notions of bias applied to the judiciary. At least in the judiciary we actually have people making binding decisions regarding the litigants. Even then this notion of bias has gone to an crazy degree, such that we all have to pretend that a judge has never thought about Roe in their entire life before those issues come before them in court. Having personal beliefs is not the same as improperly applying the law to the facts.

Posted by: MosBen | November 8, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra, you lied to us about there being no death panels in health care reform. If there were no death panels, then what is this:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/07/AR2010110705205.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: edwardallen54 | November 8, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra, you lied to us about there being no death panels in health care reform. If there were no death panels, then what is this:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/07/AR2010110705205.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: edwardallen54 | November 8, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra, you lied to us about there being no death panels in health care reform. If there were no death panels, then what is this:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/07/AR2010110705205.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: edwardallen54 | November 8, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

mjarcana, like others have pointed out, Ezra is not talking about the question, "did Olbermann break the rules?" He's talking about the question, "is the rule sensible?"

I think Ezra is right on the money that the rule is not sensible. I also think Olbermann is a real fool for having made those donations in violation of the rules, and if only as a reminder that foolishness is foolish, I'm glad he was suspended for a couple of days.

Posted by: JonathanTE | November 8, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

It's sad to me that this stupid issue garners more comments than other recent, meatier postings on this blog. It's all Gawker at this point.

Posted by: nickthap | November 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

A four-day weekend. Poor baby, I hope they weren't too hard on him.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | November 8, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Keith is a disgrace to American journalism. Is he a journalist? I believe he is just a pompous clown. He is totally ignorant. Where did he ever go to school? He doesn't know anything about anything. He is totally stupid, totally illiterate. It is ridiculous to consider him a political commentator.He should go back to sports...

Posted by: cheo2 | November 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

My only concern is the hypocrisy of Mr. Olbermann regarding his coverage of NewsCorps' donation to the GOP while still having GOP candidates on Fox without disclosing said donations.
Granted, he was right to call out that deception, but it's equally absurd for him to have had candidates to whom he donate on his show (which he did) without disclosing his own vested interest.
Keith is absurdly liberal just as Fox is absurdly neo-conservative, so anyone who acts surprised by either is just looking for a story. The point, though, is disclosure about specific donations when the recepient of those donations is going to get face time on your program. (Not to mention the hypocrisy of Olbermann chastising Fox for it while doing it himself)

Posted by: chadreese | November 8, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Keith Olbermann is to liberal & Progressives,
as the late great intellect
William F. Buckley Jr. was to thinking republicans.

Posted by: wave06 | November 8, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

@cheo2,
First you ask if he's a journalist, then you say it's ridiculous to consider him a political commentator. Do you know the definitions of those terms?

Do you know the differences between reporters for the print media and news analysts, or commentators?

Reporters give you the straight news - take it any way you want. Analysts bring in other, related information to help interpret the news. A commentator (often a columnist) also interprets, but includes his own opinion.

Keith's program was never intended as a straight news show - he is a commentator.

And he is neither stupid nor illiterate, but I have my doubts about you.

Posted by: Pamsm | November 8, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which owns Fox, gave $2 million to Republican politicians.

Keith Olbermann gave $7,200 to Democrats but got suspended for two days and a week of national publicity.

Priceless!

Posted by: Airborne82 | November 8, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Ezra Klein, you rock! I'll be delighted and relieved to tune in to Keith Olbermann on Tuesday evening! Glad to have him back on MSNBC!!! A previous commenter on this site asked why liberals are always allowed to break the rules but conservatives are not. How silly!!! But also fascinating, since, during the weeks prior to the past election, my emails were too often disgraceful messages containing lies, exaggerations, and crude comments about the President, his policies and positions! The lies were easily disproved, which tells me that the authors knew what easy prey they were dealing with! Worse, in no case did a person or group take responsbility for the tasteless content! Must admit these emails were forwarded to me by friends and relatives on the "other side" who thought they could influence my thinking. Obviously, they were mistaken except that now I think less of them. One rule I learned early in life was to take responsibility for what I did, said, and wrote. Keith Olbermann always takes full responsibility, as do his colleagues at MSNBC. As do most of the pundits on TV whether or not I buy into what they say. But emails are another matter -- obviously, some believe it's quite okay for authors of the vilest content to abuse the First Amendment without claiming responsibility!

Posted by: blackeyedminx | November 8, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA. The man who brought us Journolist now lectures us on "ojbectivity" in journalism.
HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | November 8, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Surprise! Olbermann is liberal. Who would have thought?

The reason MSNBC isn't a "foil" to Fox is that the vast majority of other news is delivered (some would say slanted) by liberals.

While Fox dominates the conservative side of the media market, MSNBC has to divide their market between NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, HLM, NPR, PBS, etc.

Cut the pretense. Donate to the candidate of your choice but stop pretending to be disinterested.

Posted by: Brad2 | November 8, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

edwarddallen54 wrote:

"Hey Ezra, you lied to us about there being no death panels in health care reform. If there were no death panels, then what is this:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/07/AR2010110705205.html?hpid=topnews"

It is either common sense, or as you apparnetly believe the restriction of life extending medical treatment.

So here's the question. Do you believe that the government should pay for any and all possible life extending treatments or not regardless of cost, regardless of effectiveness?

Posted by: 54465446 | November 8, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

There is really only one network for serious people in this country and that is CNBC.. You get all the same news as MSNBC, from the NBC pool but you have far more talented and accomplished guests. You have many of the same poiticians but sometimes in one hour segements live, not 2 minute taped sound bites.

Virtually everyone in the world who is powerful in either government or finance has appeared at one time or another, a claim that MSNBC cannnot begin to match. Watch and see the difference!

Posted by: 54465446 | November 8, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Very insightful article, still the folks at MSNBC had to have been a tad shocked at the speed and depth of blow back, Olbermann rules

Posted by: PSBurton | November 8, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Here's my take...Keith is not a reporter, but a columnist, an editorialist...that he puts his money where his mouth is should not only be allowed but is commendable.
Take the problem of Juan Williams and Mora Laiasson (sic?)...Fox always gave them the NPR label when intro'd. NPR had every right to object to the use of their "reputation" when in fact the two of them were working a 2nd gig...paid stooges for the right wing assault on sensibility that is Fox News.
MSNBC is obviously an answer to Fox; that is the commercial effort. Keith, Rachel, Ed...all partisan liberals....Chris Matthews is more of a reporter but of course a leaning Democrat....He worked for Tip O'Neill after all! That their audience is smaller than Fox only means that their audience is split...not only NPR and CNN but BET, Univision, Telemundo, the John Stewart show, etc.
We know where Fox and their "talent" stand. They not only make contributions as individuals and as a corporation, they use their airwaves to raise money for candidates....but they share one sin with Olbermann...they should make their contributions public...and especially when the $$$ goes to frequent guests.

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | November 8, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

the real story behind the olbermann fiasco is the right wing COMCAST take over of nbc and the bootlicking by nbc execs in advance of said takeover.

"What has not gotten a lot of attention in the midst of this controversy is that GE's NBC Universal, one of the largest media conglomerates in the country, is in the process of merging with Comcast, the largest cable television provider in America. The new head of that company would be Stephen B. Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer and a "Bush Ranger" who raised at least $200,000 for the 2004 reelection campaign of President George W. Bush." senator sanders (I) vermont.

Posted by: xxxxxx1 | November 8, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

EK:
Welcome back. Karl Smith did an excellent job in your absence and that's high praise given that you know my opinion of university economists.
The real mystery is given that Olbermann is smug, pretentious, generally insufferable and has a tiny audience of about 300,000 viewers a night, why did they WANT him back?
--------------------------------------------------

Because he does not lie to us about the quotes and facts. So of us like the truth - go figure!

Posted by: question-guy | November 8, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

EK:
Welcome back. Karl Smith did an excellent job in your absence and that's high praise given that you know my opinion of university economists.
The real mystery is given that Olbermann is smug, pretentious, generally insufferable and has a tiny audience of about 300,000 viewers a night, why did they WANT him back?
-------------------------------------------

Because he does not lie to us about quotes and/or facts. Some of us like the truth now and then - go figure!

Posted by: question-guy | November 8, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Olbermann = carnival barker.... nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: savannah4 | November 8, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Keith and Rachel Maddow have been carrying the water for the dems for a long while now. They are both heroic and if you appreciate democracy and speaking truth to power you should treasure them both. Thanks for the thoughtful piece Ezra.

Posted by: flyingtrees | November 8, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse


A 'journo-list-less' piece if ever I've read one.

It was a call to change the law and not the law breaker.

This, after all the wailing about 'unknown' funding.

In the end, who, or, more precisely WHAT, GETS THE MONEY?

The answer is that THEY, THE MEDIA, get the money, virtually all of it.

Shouldn't air time for political commercials really be FREE? Wouldn't it then be FAIR?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Posted by: NOTINFL | November 8, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

My experience has been that more rules that exist in business to protect the egos of management than for any other reason. We extol free speech but insubordination is still a firing offense. Apparently, half of the reason Keith was suspended was because he was pushing back and refusing to issue an on air apology. Who knows the truth of it when major egos clash? But, I do think the rule is inherently flawed simply because it is based on permission -- permission to act as an adult in conducting one's own life. Permission to exercise the inherent right to be a citizen. Permission to be equal to corporations. Permission from "Daddy."

Griffin's ego must have been shuddering once the reaction set in -- 250,000 signatures in 24 hours. An outpouring of reaction that ended up shutting down NBC's phone system. Conservative pundits speaking out in support of Keith. A move to boycott MSNBC.

As for Rachel's statement about this proving that MSNBC is a valid news source versus Fox, well, let's say, b-s. I think that MSNBC has more journalistic integrity than Fox, but I hardly consider it unbiased or news. Most of the time, it's non-stop opinionating from 2 pm onwards. Anyone who watches Keith for 10 minutes would be able to discern his bias. At least half of what is aired during the afternoon and evening is speculative fiction, i.e., wondering about someone else's thinking and/or plans or a possible outcome of some action.

However, personal opinions, no matter how well-grounded in facts, are still only personal truths, not universal truths. There are layers of enculturation and conditioning supporting any belief system, much of it unquestioned or inspected. Let's face it, both Fox News and MSNBC have "news personalities," another way of saying egos on parade.

Posted by: akaurora | November 8, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Obermann and Maddow are hopeless shills for the far left.

MSNBC have tried to emulate Fox News from the progressive perspective. Sadly, they've come up short.

It's like they're Fox news, only without the interviews and news content. It's difficult to believe that even with such a low bar, they've come up short.

Posted by: postfan1 | November 8, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Hunter Thompson was a talentless meglomaniac, as is Olbermann and now you, Ezra, are as well by being influenced by these morons.

Posted by: nickthimmeschearthlinknet | November 9, 2010 5:28 AM | Report abuse

MSNBC policy is ridiculous given the policy of such news agencies as Fox. Fox makes no pretense of being unbiased much less fair and open minded.

Dancing to the conservative refrain that the press is liberally biased does a disservice to those who would actually like some intelligent reporting and analysis.

Posted by: tryreason | November 9, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

I understand that all of the publicity has doubled Mr.Olbermann's viewers! It's true! He's gone from 15 viewers a night to 30!! Wow! That's incredible!

Posted by: georges2 | November 9, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I understand that all of the publicity has doubled Mr.Olbermann's viewers! It's true! He's gone from 15 viewers a night to 30!! Wow! That's incredible!

----------------------

Too bad. Most people recognize tripe when they see it.

Posted by: postfan1 | November 9, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Ooh........can't wait to tune in for more rants by the righteous one, championing all things socialist, all things open border, all things gay, all things that will make us more like.....Cuba?

Let the hot air balloon ride the crest of this manufactured MSNBC publicity stunt that is sure to suck in the frustrated, self-hating white liberals and socialists who think it productive to watch a gasbag rant in a manner that alienates any rational human being. My Gawd, he makes Glenn Beck seem subdued. At least Beck tells people not to listen to him.....to do their own research. No need with Olbermann.......you can rely on him alone. Watching him is like constantly running your tongue over a broken filling....til your tongue is raw. Rational people rightly wonder why they would do either.

Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | November 9, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Well said, Ezra! The whole topic of journalism's role in our public discourse needs a lot more scrutiny and discussion, and your work here contributes to that effort.

Journalists who feign neutrality while manipulating the message are far more dangerous to our collective well being than this rather bizarre event and the "rules" undergirding it. Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan come to mind...

If we could have an in depth exploration of the issue of journalistic bias, we might even have a more informed electorate. Most journalists fail to challenge misinformation enough and hence distortion is disseminated, all in the name of some bizarre belief that they are showing "objectivity" and "neutrality". If journalists committed to mastery of the facts, then they could clearly point out where and when the facts are distorted or actually changed for one reason or another.

My current favorite example of the consequences of a failed media role is the vast numbers of folks who oppose health care reform and haven't the vaguest idea of what they are opposing. Since you were one of the few journalists who actually knew the substance of the legislation, you were helpful to the electorate. You were, however, an exception to the rule.

Posted by: pbkritek | November 9, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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