Jewish Journal


January 21, 2011

Olbermann out at MSNBC; not clear why


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Keith Olbermann has rarely made on appearance on The God Blog. He’s just not O’Reilly or Jon Stewart or Colbert or even Bill Maher. But the announcement he made tonight on “Countdown” is worth mentioning.

Olbermann and MSNBC “have ended their contract.” Sounds like the liberal commentator was fired. Here’s the story from CNN:

Olbermann made the announcement in his typical deadpan style, evoking scenes from the film “Network” and thanking viewers for keeping him on the air for eight years.

“In the mundane world television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative,” Olbermann said before launching into a story about his exit from ESPN 13 years ago.

“As God as my witness, in the commercial break just before the emotional moment, the producer got into my earpiece and he said, ‘um, can you cut it down to 15 seconds so we get in this tennis result from Stuttgart,’” he said, half-smiling, pausing for composure.

It’s likely no coincidence that this “parting of ways” came about two months after Olbermann was unfairly suspended by MSNBC for political contributions he made. I’m no fan of Olbermann, and his actions violated MSNBC ethical policy. But the spirit of that policy is to maintain unbiased news reporters and anchors—and no one ever had the illusion that Olbermann was unbiased.

Here’s an excerpt from a GetReligion post I wrote titled “BREAKING: Olbermann likes Democrats!

MSNBC’s is an easy-to-follow rule, and it’s fair enough that a reporter or anchor would be suspended for violating it. In fact, I would expect it if the journalist in question even pretended to be objective. But why care about that rule, and why now?

Typical news guidelines, even for anchors and not just reporters, state that journalists should not opinioneer when they aren’t appearing on the op-ed pages — and even then they shouldn’t do so if they would be discussing a topic they are supposed to cover objectively.

Personal, solitary objectivity is a farce. Good journalists just try to know their subjective biases, and to keep those from skewing their stories. Good newsrooms demand that. It is a matter of professionalism and, well, diversity.

Olbermann never did any of that. He was an often humorous old gasbag and a nice counterbalance to the fatter O’Reilly’s of the world. From this journalist’s perspective, donating to Democratic political campaigns was just about the least political thing Olbermann has done in years.

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