The New York Times is reporting that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews have been relieved of their anchor duties:
“MSNBC tried a bold experiment this year by putting two politically incendiary hosts, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, in the anchor chair to lead the cable news channel’s coverage of the election.
“That experiment appears to be over.
“After months of accusations of political bias and simmering animosity between MSNBC and its parent network NBC, the channel decided over the weekend that the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host David Gregory would anchor news coverage of the coming debates and election night. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will remain as analysts during the coverage.
“The change â€” which comes in the home stretch of the long election cycle â€” is a direct result of tensions associated with the channel’s perceived shift to the political left. . .
“Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams, the past and present anchors of ‘NBC Nightly News,’ have told friends and colleagues that they are finding it tougher and tougher to defend the cable arm of the news division. . .”
I have made mention in several recent posts about the less-than-stellar news reporting that is going on at MSNBC (see here, here, and here). MSNBC’s coverage of the Democrat and Republican conventions was anything but objective (e.g., reporters weeping after Obama’s speech, etc.). MSNBC paired their most stridently liberal commentator (Keith Olbermann) with a former aide to Jimmy Carter (Chris Matthews) to anchor their coverage. Guess what happened. The coverage favored the Democrats while castigating the Republicans.
Bernie Goldberg describes liberal media bias not as a conscious agenda on the part of news reporters, but as an unconscious worldview that inevitably comes to the surface in the way that the news gets reported. For the most part, I have agreed with Goldberg on this point. Many “straight” news reporters try to be objective, but their worldview nevertheless undermines those efforts in subtle but profound ways. Thus we have “liberal” media bias.
But MSNBC’s “bias” problems are not of the sort that Goldberg wrote about, and that’s what makes them so significant. Olbermann and Matthews are both open supporters of the Democrat nominee for president. In other words, they are not even trying to be objective, yet they have been the front-men for MSNBC for months now. Olbermann and Matthews were filling positions usually populated by reporters, not by opinionators. Thus MSNBC made the conscious editorial decision to blur the line between reporting (“just the facts ma’am”) and commenting (“here’s what I think about the facts ma’am”).
I think their removal is a good move on MSNBC’s part, but I also think that more needs to be done on all the cable networks. The line between reporting and opinion is blurrier than ever, and our public discourse is the worse for it.
[P.S. You are in bad shape if even the New York Times can see that you are biased!]