With the news spreading that the king of bombastic center-left news will soon return to the airwaves after a measly two day suspension, the members of the intellectual elite on the Left seem to be divided.
I have huge respect for journalist Chris Hayes, Washington Editor of The Nation for refusing to fill in for Olbermann, since Hayes himself had made donations to political campaigns. Hayes is by far my favorite journalist of the new era and his contributions to Countdown when he was brought on are above and beyond the most intriguing and well researched commentary on daily news and the Beltway gang.
Slate’s Jack Schafer wrote a great article on the absurdity that the Olbermann debacle has become.
Why can’t MSNBC see the value in letting Countdown and The Rachel Maddow Show be what they want to be: well-reported, liberal opinion magazines that happen to air on television? Perhaps it’s because MSNBC’s strings are still controlled by NBC, which, as a holder of federal broadcast licenses for its TV and radio stations, had to uphold the fairness doctrine all those decades or face the revocation of its licenses.
At the base of the Olbermann-gate is that the established news agencies have not quite figured out what they think of their own programming. Olbermann has crafted a program that in its seriousness and pretentiousness has obviously sought to become the See It Now of the new millennium. (As a side note, Olbermann’s oft worn three-piece suits look like he he walked into a tailor and held up a picture of Murrow and said “Get me his suit”.)
In the face of the likes of Fox News, I am glad that a Left commentator exists, if nothing for merely a bulwark against the all-consuming News Corp. However, to judge journalism by the standards of Fox is a straight out bad idea. Journalists who say woe to the trade of journalism and its decline due to Fox are now judging their morality by Fox? This appears to be a justification of poor practices and nothing more.
To return to Schafer’s point, MSNBC (and by natural association, NBC proper) need to figure out what exactly they want from their news corporations. If NBC Nightly is straight neutral news, then MSNBC needs to start admitting it is their Op/Ed section. Which it for all intents and purposes has been from the beginning.
I have no need for Olbermann in news, and his bombastic and self-righteous tone is aggravating at time, but I defend he had the right as a private citizen to make those contributions. He likely out to have disclosed this to his employer, but MSNBC had no right to tell an employee they could not act as a private citizen. The veil between public and private life is often precarious, but in this instance, it was a clearly defined line. The only problem was that Olbermann and The Management found each other on opposite sides of the veil.