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Pangloss

Keith Olbermann Suspension

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I'm kinda running out the door here but let me at least start a thread on this:

 

Some background can be found in a number of articles here:

http://news.google.com/news/more?pz=1&cf=all&ncl=daCvyinYwjANgEMuLRp4z5_EWD-yM&topic=h

 

In case that link doesn't work, here are some more specific links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/05/nbc-anchorman-suspended-donating-democrats

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/olbermann-sidelined-msnbc-making-political-contributions/story?id=12069567

http://www.salon.com/news/msnbc/?story=/politics/war_room/2010/11/05/olbermann_suspended

 

I haven't had a chance to really digest this yet, but it seems to me that MSNBC is pursing the wrong policy agenda here, and should change its policy. If Olbermann broke a rule, fine, but after punishing him they should then change the rule, because it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. He's a commentator, not a news reporter. The purpose of such a rule is to suggest impartiality, but none exists here, so what's the point?

 

Where I think this does open the door for an interesting debate is on where to draw the exact line between "news" and "commentary". The news industry continues to struggle with this question, constantly blurring the lines. Perhaps the line blurred so rapidly in this case that a rule intended to apply to news reporters didn't get updated in time to apply to commentators like Olbermann.

 

It also occurs to me that we're starting to see a real distinction two different kinds of commentators -- impartials and partisans. Finding a good definition for these two subtypes is obviously tricky -- is Jon Stewart a partisan for the left, or an independent? What about Bill O'Reilly? Perhaps here's no question about Sean Hannity, but what about Neal Cavuto or Larry King? Tricky ground.

 

What do you all think?

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Where I think this does open the door for an interesting debate is on where to draw the exact line between "news" and "commentary". The news industry continues to struggle with this question, constantly blurring the lines. Perhaps the line blurred so rapidly in this case that a rule intended to apply to news reporters didn't get updated in time to apply to commentators like Olbermann.

 

It also occurs to me that we're starting to see a real distinction two different kinds of commentators -- impartials and partisans. Finding a good definition for these two subtypes is obviously tricky -- is Jon Stewart a partisan for the left, or an independent? What about Bill O'Reilly? Perhaps here's no question about Sean Hannity, but what about Neal Cavuto or Larry King? Tricky ground.

 

What do you all think?

 

I think attempting to distinguish between news and commentary is something we should do more of. People will say "but it's impossible to be totally objective bla bla bla" and that's true, but that doesn't mean you don't make it a lot worse if you don't even try to distinguish opinion and fact, let alone deliberately confusing the two, which I believe is also done quite a bit.

 

As for distinguishing between "impartial" and "partisan," I think that's probably unimportant from an journalistic policy standpoint. Does it even make sense for an opinion to be impartial? If it does, wouldn't everyone - Sean Hannity included - claim to be? I guess there is a difference between stating one's own opinion and being a spokesman for some wider agenda (think Howard Dean the governor and candidate vs. Howard Dean the DNC chair), but the latter generally claim to be the former, right?

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I think Keith Olbermann's ratings were down and this gave NBC the excuse they needed to can him.

 

That is a bit premature, he is currently only suspended. Also, it could just be a publicity stunt to get his ratings up.

 

Maybe Keith is in negotiations with Fox News. Now that would be funny.

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If Keith Olberman's job required him not to make those contributions I can't see how he has a leg to stand on.

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Keith Olbermann jumped the shark when he failed to learn the lessons of the Rally to Restore Sanity. It's cool he got rid of the "Worst Person in the World" segment, and it was even cooler when he responded to previous Daily Show criticism of him with a "mea culpa", but by panning the Rally to Restore Sanity he's ignoring the fact he's part of the problem.

 

Keith Olbermann claims if he stops shouting "the right" will only get louder. Jon Stewart claims "if we amplify everything, we hear nothing." I'm with Jon Stewart on this one.

 

All that said, I'm against his suspension by MSNBC. However, we're talking about a guy who in the past refused to vote because he saw himself in the same light as an Edward R. Murrow. Donating money to a political party seems almost uncharacteristic of Olbermann's previous sentiments.

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I guess there is a difference between stating one's own opinion and being a spokesman for some wider agenda (think Howard Dean the governor and candidate vs. Howard Dean the DNC chair), but the latter generally claim to be the former, right?

 

This is an interesting point. When Dean made that transition I did find myself sort of mentally holding Howard Dean to a different set of professional practices and behavior. He was more partisan, but that felt okay (reasonable) because of his new role as party cheerleader. Also, there were a few times during that tenure when he acknowledged fair/honorably actions by specific Republicans, and he generally avoided dipping into personalized attacks except where they had already come into the discourse and/or seemed directly relevant to political practices (e.g. corruption). It's a very gray area, but it did seem like he made the right effort. I believe even saw him agree with Newt Gingrich on something recently.

 

How can we apply this reasoning to the growing two-level split between non-partisan commentators and those who champion a specific ideology? What about something like a set of commonly-accepted professional practices? (Or am I putting too fine a point on it?)

 

----------

 

BTW, this article in the Huffington Post suggests that there's a context to this story that suggests that his suspension has more to do with internal politics than national politics.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/05/keith-olbermann-suspended_n_779586.html

 

In recent months, Griffin has taken several bold steps to declare his authority over the network and its sometimes unruly talent: he sent a stern memo warning hosts to not publicly fight with each other, he suspended David Shuster indefinitely for filming a CNN pilot, suspended Donny Deutsch, banned Markos Moulitsas from the network, and reprimanded Ed Schultz for threatening to "torch" the network.

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I think there's a difference between being a commentator and being a shill. Fox "commentators" give money to and help raise money for candidates, and Hannity (and perhaps others) did not disclose this despite Fox promising he would.

 

 

 

I think there's a parallel here with the government not being allowed to endorse commercial products or services. So I cannot, acting as a government employee, endorse ACME lasers. But I am also obligated (absent any security considerations) to disclose this fact, as part of scientific reporting or if asked, under freedom of information. There's a line dividing the two, and perhaps a grey area. I think I can say we used ACME lasers and they worked fine, (we had no problems with them, or we don't plan on replacing them), so if someone were to use them for a similar experiment, that would not prevent the experiment from working. This, as opposed to telling people they should buy and use them, which is disallowed. It's pretty clear to me that the minute money gets involved, the line has been crossed.

 

For the "commentators," they can give their opinions, and I don't know if they are obligated to give equal time to interviewing candidates with whom they disagree. But as soon as money gets involved, it's no longer commentary.

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I think there's a difference between being a commentator and being a shill. Fox "commentators" give money to and help raise money for candidates, and Hannity (and perhaps others) did not disclose this despite Fox promising he would.

 

Says Rachel Maddow? It's an intriguing allegation, but can we get a better source for the claim that Fox promised to reveal campaign contributions, please? (Or was that in one of the other articles?)

 

Also, it seems to me that we've made a bit of a leap here from what I thought was campaign donations being found through normal transparency, to expecting commentators to reveal their donations. I'm not sure how we got from there to here. (IE why you see Olbermann as different from Hannity.) If you could clarify that I'd appreciate it.

 

Thanks.

 

 

For the "commentators," they can give their opinions, and I don't know if they are obligated to give equal time to interviewing candidates with whom they disagree. But as soon as money gets involved, it's no longer commentary.

 

They're not.

 

Why shouldn't they be allowed to put their money where their mouth is? Can't we expect the public to understand that they're a "shill" for one ideology or another? Or is that the problem -- not everyone will understand?

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Says Rachel Maddow? It's an intriguing allegation, but can we get a better source for the claim that Fox promised to reveal campaign contributions, please? (Or was that in one of the other articles?)

 

The clip clearly showed and mentioned a story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and showed the quote. Why is that insufficient?

 

 

Also, it seems to me that we've made a bit of a leap here from what I thought was campaign donations being found through normal transparency, to expecting commentators to reveal their donations. I'm not sure how we got from there to here. (IE why you see Olbermann as different from Hannity.) If you could clarify that I'd appreciate it.

 

 

I don't see a difference in this regard. Olbermann got suspended, though, because msnbc has an ethics rule that doesn't exist at Fox.

 

 

 

 

Why shouldn't they be allowed to put their money where their mouth is? Can't we expect the public to understand that they're a "shill" for one ideology or another? Or is that the problem -- not everyone will understand?

 

Fox still presents the facade that they are fair and balanced.

 

I think it is possible to have political bias and still possess a certain amount of objectivity. Endorsing candidates throws that out of the window.

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Fox still presents the facade that they are fair and balanced.

 

I think it is possible to have political bias and still possess a certain amount of objectivity. Endorsing candidates throws that out of the window.

 

What candidates has Fox News endorsed?

 

 

The clip clearly showed and mentioned a story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and showed the quote. Why is that insufficient?

 

If that's all you can offer then I suppose it will have to do. It's objectionable for the same reason as jackson33 quoting a discussion post from Free Republic. No matter, I'll grin and bear it if I must.

 

 

I don't see a difference in this regard. Olbermann got suspended, though, because msnbc has an ethics rule that doesn't exist at Fox.

 

Right, not because of some sort of overall professional practice. It's not just Fox News that's lacking such a rule, and the question here is whether one would be a good idea. I don't see the point.

 

 

I think I'm starting to see the appeal to partisans, though. Such a rule would aid companies in fooling unsuspecting viewers into thinking that their commentators are impartial. This would be particularly beneficial to any ideology which is based on lulling and tricking a stupid and unsuspecting public into doing what's best for it. I wonder where we might find a philosophy like that. :)

 

 

I think there's a difference between being a commentator and being a shill. Fox "commentators" give money to and help raise money for candidates, and Hannity (and perhaps others) did not disclose this despite Fox promising he would.

 

Okay, so having gritted my teeth and watched this:

 

1) Sean Hannity is alleged to be fair and balanced. (Not true, that's a Fox News position and Sean Hannity, like Rachel Maddow, is a partisan commentator known to favor a specific ideological group.)

 

2) Fox News promised ONLY that HE would disclose his campaign contribution during the interview (there's no sign here of your allegation of "perhaps others"). This is valid but seems irrelevant because Sean Hannity speaks only for himself. He should be suspended if he broke a rule, but I don't see where he fooled anyone.

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I have a question, did Keith make this campaign contribution and use the fact that he made it to influence others or did he do it privately with no advertisement of it?

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I have a question, did Keith make this campaign contribution and use the fact that he made it to influence others or did he do it privately with no advertisement of it?

 

As with Sean Hannity and others, the contributions were not promoted on their programs. Since contributions are transparent, they became visible to those looking at contribution lists.

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What candidates has Fox News endorsed?

 

Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are now paid employees of Fox

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What candidates has Fox News endorsed?

 

 

Do I need to transcribe the video for the list? Are you really going to pretend that you weren't aware that Sarah Palin endorsed candidates?

 

If that's all you can offer then I suppose it will have to do. It's objectionable for the same reason as jackson33 quoting a discussion post from Free Republic. No matter, I'll grin and bear it if I must.

 

 

A commentator quoting a newspaper (and showing a picture of the story) is the same as a discussion post? Really? They have the same level of credibility?

 

It's quoted elsewhere (and not hard to find), though the original story appears to be paywalled.

 

http://blogs.twincities.com/politics/2010/10/hannity-puts-money-on-bachmann.html

http://mediamatters.org/print/blog/201011050034

 

 

Right, not because of some sort of overall professional practice. It's not just Fox News that's lacking such a rule, and the question here is whether one would be a good idea. I don't see the point.

 

To me it's pretty obvious that there is one. It's a matter of being a commentator and a cheerleader. Whether there's the hope that maybe you won't be lied to on a continuing basis. The difference between perhaps watching a program that might discuss topics of interest to you, and someone just repeating the talking points.

 

Okay, so having gritted my teeth and watched this:

 

1) Sean Hannity is alleged to be fair and balanced. (Not true, that's a Fox News position and Sean Hannity, like Rachel Maddow, is a partisan commentator known to favor a specific ideological group.)

 

2) Fox News promised ONLY that HE would disclose his campaign contribution during the interview (there's no sign here of your allegation of "perhaps others"). This is valid but seems irrelevant because Sean Hannity speaks only for himself. He should be suspended if he broke a rule, but I don't see where he fooled anyone.

 

Hannity appears on the Fox news channel and the foxnews.com website, which proclaim to be fair and balanced.

 

 

 

So, you commented before, without even watching the video? Just dismissed the content out of hand?

 

I'm done here.

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What candidates has Fox News endorsed?

Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are now paid employees of Fox

 

Neither Sarah Palin nor Mike Huckabee are candidates for political office.

 

And employing a political commentator is not the same thing as endorsing their ideological view or their candidacy for a future office.

 

By the way, Fox's Chris Wallace appeared on The Daily Show this week, and something he said seems relevant here. He said that the very moment either of them announces their candidacy for political office, their tenure as employees at Fox News Channel comes to an end. I don't know if he was exposing inside information about their contracts, passing on a factual statement based on his own knowledge of FNC policy, or simply expressing his own opinion, but that's what the man said.

 

 

Fox still presents the facade that they are fair and balanced.

 

I think it is possible to have political bias and still possess a certain amount of objectivity. Endorsing candidates throws that out of the window.

What candidates has Fox News endorsed?

Do I need to transcribe the video for the list? Are you really going to pretend that you weren't aware that Sarah Palin endorsed candidates?

 

Sarah Palin does not represent the editorial position of Fox News channel. Neither does former Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, who has been a Fox News Channel analyst since 1999.

 

Nor does Paul Krugman represent the editorial position of the New York Times. And the New York Times endorses candidates all the time. Here are some of the ones they endorsed in 2010. Why is that okay, but if Fox News were to do it (which I don't believe they do) that would not be okay?

 

 

A commentator quoting a newspaper (and showing a picture of the story) is the same as a discussion post? Really? They have the same level of credibility?

 

I didn't mean to imply that, rather I was cringing at the idea of having to watch Rachel Maddow. I watched your video and responded to it in the previous post. I appreciate that you went and found some articles but it wasn't necessary on my account -- I accepted your source.

 

 

Hannity appears on the Fox news channel and the foxnews.com website, which proclaim to be fair and balanced.

 

CNN claims objectivity, yet it employs people like Joy Behar and Andersen Cooper. NBC claims objectivity, yet its cable news arm employs people like Rachel Maddow and Ken Olbermann.

 

 

To me it's pretty obvious that there is one. It's a matter of being a commentator and a cheerleader. Whether there's the hope that maybe you won't be lied to on a continuing basis. The difference between perhaps watching a program that might discuss topics of interest to you, and someone just repeating the talking points.

 

Well that's your opinion and more power to you, and that's why I made my suggestion that we should have an accepted practice for multiple levels of political commentary in professional presentation that's applied more or less across the board.

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