Saturday, November 06, 2010
Editorial: K.O.'s K.O.
Then I began reading some very excellent arguments which were put forth by Reality Zone who published an article from Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). Others include Oh!pinion and Politics Plus. These are all top-notch blogs whose writers are smart and talented and who possess admirable integrity. Coming at it from different directions they argue that NBC has treated KO unfairly. They almost have me convinced, but something keeps nagging at me just the same.
I go to Progressive Eruptions where Shaw writes about Rachel Maddow's reaction to the action and my nose starts sniffing again. By the time I get to Menopausal Stoners and Useless Trivia and Mindless Rants it's begun to twitch like a dog with St. Vitus Dance. And this is why.
I don't give a flying flip what Joe Scarborough got away with, or what FOX News does or even GE. I just don't think their lack of ethics has any bearing on Keith Olbermann. Nor do I think KO's good and noble contributions to the liberal cause have any bearing on the situation. Nor does the small amount he donated. And this is why.
It is about Olbermann and the contract he signed with NBC, a contract that is binding, a contract that states in plain English that journalists must check with management before donating to a political campaign. FOX News excepted, this is pretty standard in the world of ethical journalism. He has no more right to break this contract than anyone else has a right to unilaterally suspend a legal agreement. Sure, all kinds of others have gotten away with it, but that doesn't make it okay for Olbermann to get away with it. It especially doesn't make it okay for a champion of truth and honesty to get away with it. It especially doesn't make it okay for a respected journalist to get away with it. And this is why.
Any journalist who possesses an ounce of brains and a thimble-full of integrity will at all costs avoid even the slightest appearance of wrong doing. Drama King that Olbermann can be sometimes, he's by no means short on brains. So, why? Why would he do something that he is smart enough to know ain't kosher? And this is the crux of the problem with me.
Menopausal Stoner writes in her article, Suspending KO = Effective PR, "I'm thinking there's a special comment from Keith - already in production - where he says being suspended was appropriate because it distinguishes MSNBC from FOX."
Progressive Eruptions quotes Rachel Maddow: “He made three personal political donations to candidates in this last election cycle,” she said. “The reason that resulted in Keith’s suspension is that, here at MSNBC, there is an explicit employee rule against hosts making contributions like that. . . . But if you do not ask in advance, you are bound by the rule.”
Smell anything yet?
If this is, and I'm beginning to think it is, some kind of PR stunt, or if it's manufactured news, or just bad theatre, Olbermann is seriously out of bounds. Not only is this kind of crap entirely unethical, he's sinking to the level of FOX News. And if my suspicions are correct? I'll leave that up to NBC.
And if my suspicions are wrong? I'll be wearing feathers in my mouth.
UPDATE, Sunday, 11/07: From Politico:
BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Network sources tell Playbook that Keith Olbermann was suspended because he refused to deliver an on-camera mea culpa, which would have allowed him to continue anchoring “Countdown.” Olbermann told his bosses he didn't know he was barred from making campaign contributions, although he is resisting saying that publicly. Olbermann may not hold as many cards as he thinks. He makes $7 million a year and MSNBC's prime time is not as dependent on him as it was before the addition of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell, who make considerably less.