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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ideological Journalism's Dangerous Game

What a dilemma for MSNBC's outspoken hosts, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. Not only have they angered conservatives with their outspoken commentaries on the Republic convention. Now they're finding that their corporate bosses at NBC Universal are less than thrilled with their form of journalism too.

According to the New York Times, NBC News management are engaging in damage control after VP nominee Sarah Palin attacked media bias in her speech, thus eliciting chants from the convention floor of "NBC! NBC!" from disgruntled delegates.

Olbermann was more outspoken than his colleague Matthews, even telling fellow pundit Joe Scarborough, a former Republic congressman, "Jesus Joe, why don't you get a shovel?" in response to Scarborough saying something positive about Palin.

NBC management's response has been to move Matthews and Olbermann away from hosting the higher profile events to come. M & O will be confined to the cable news playground and David Gregory, a more mainstream reporter has been assigned to handle the presidential and vice presidential debates.

While I find Olbermann's attacks amusing (they are sharp and usually find their targets), and Matthews less satisfying because of his blowhard tendencies, I think that this issue points out a couple of failings in the present system.

First, NBC Universal seems overly quick to silence - or at least APPEAR to silence its outspoken hosts. If M & O were bloviating from the right, would management move as quickly? I doubt it.

Second, the value of the punditocracy is quickly diminishing in value. How many times can you listen to the same rants from the right and left without the benefit of some real reporting?

Third, this media self-absorption detracts from the really important aspects of the campaign - to wit, the issues themselves.

Finally, an interesting interactive blog from the LA Times on how it might all end. My prediction is 277 electoral college votes for Obama who wins Virginia and Montana but loses Pennsylvania and Ohio. Have a look and try it yourself.

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