Nov 5, 2010

Olbermann suspended*

MSNBC has suspended Keith Olbermann indefinitely for donating to three Democratic candidates (two Arizona liberals and Democrat Jack Conway, who was running for Senate in Kentucky). The donations violated NBC ethics guidelines for the station's journalists and came, in at least one case, right after one of the candidates appeared on Olbermann's show.

MSNBC, led by Olbermann, is striving (in a leaning-forward fashion) to be the anti-Fox of op-ed TV. Fox's parent company, News Corp, gave money directly to Republicans. Which leads me to wonder: Can you hold hosts or entire companies to the standards of good journalism when they're not practicing good journalism?

*More: Jamies Poniewozik at Time magazine says the donation merely reminds people that the liberal talk show host is liberal. True - to a point. The donations were given to guests, meaning Olbermann used the soap box provided by MSNBC to boost hand-picked candidates. That's clearly a problem for MSNBC.

I also disagree with Poniewozik's opinion that journalists should let their partisan bias fly. Impartial journalism isn't about some belief in "objectivity," or a deluded belief that near-objectivity can be attained; it's applying a rigorous method to how you gather and dispense information. Boosting political candidates conflicts with this method. Following the method, however, is voluntary. Unless you work for a company that says it will suspend you if you don't. (And, yes, I think it is somewhat hypocritical for MSNBC to apply such standards given what it's become.)

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