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How NBC can fix its Keith Olbermann debacle
It was silly to suspend the "Countdown" host for making partisan campaign donations, says Jack Shafer at Slate. After all, the network pays Olbermann to be biased
 
Olbermann has never pretended to be a bias-free journalist, says Jack Shafer at "Slate."
Olbermann has never pretended to be a bias-free journalist, says Jack Shafer at "Slate."
MSNBC-TV

MSNBC and its parent, NBC, really bungled the Keith Olbermann affair, says Jack Shafer at Slate. It was a "weakly suspicious" move to suspend the "Countdown" anchor "for a grand total of two days" after he violated the company's ethics policy by donating $7,200 to Democrat candidates without first securing permission. Really, why suspend Olbermann at all? The rule is clearly meant to keep straight-news journalists from looking biased, but both Olbermann and his colleague Rachel Maddow are absolutely "transparent about coming at the news from a liberal angle." If their viewers expect straight news, instead of liberal opinion, says Shafer, "it's the network's failing — not theirs." Here, an excerpt:

Instead of viewing Olbermann's partisanship as a liability, NBC should treat it as an asset. To paraphrase something [American Prospect co-founder] Paul Starr once wrote to [sociologist] Michael Schudson, in the minds of many readers, the editorial pages of a newspaper vouchsafe the credibility of its news columns by saying here is opinion, and over here is fact... [By] stating unequivocally that Countdown and Maddow are opinion magazines, and, hell yes, shredding that no-contribution-without-permission policy — the network could better brand these two shows and its other programs.

Likewise, MSNBC's very nervous legacy parent, NBC News, which thinks itself tarnished by opinion on its cable child, could better distance itself from the Olbermann-Maddow Experience. So, yes, free Keith, free Rachel, and by all means, free MSNBC.

Read the full article at Slate.

 

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