MSNBC: Two perspectives

This morning Samuel Tenenbaum joined me at my breakfast table as I was having my second cup, the first time I’d seen him since before the Democratic Convention. But what was on his mind was a shake-up at MSNBC, which he had read about in the NYT this morning. An excerpt:

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

The change — which comes in the home stretch of the long election
cycle — is a direct result of tensions associated with the channel’s
perceived shift to the political left.

Samuel saw this as the news media caving in to political pressure on the right. I told him I had no opinion on the subject other than that my uniformly low opinion of cable TV "news" in general. It’s nothing but a bunch of talking heads who play an integral role, along with the staffs of ideological interest groups, in the intellectually offensive polarization of America. Samuel agreed, noting that he watches them less and less — but the NYT story still disturbed him.

He would have been far MORE disturbed by the cover story of the National Review I found on my desk when I got in today: "Barack Obama’s Pet Peacock." Expecting a piece alleging that MSNBC leans Obama-ward, I turned to it and found something that went way beyond that:

Despite what you may have heard, Olbermann’s MSNBC is not becoming a network for liberals — not for your average hybrid-driving, New Yorker–reading, fair-trade-coffee-drinking liberals, anyway. Those liberals already have networks: They have ABC, CBS, CNN, National Public Radio, as well as Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and its mock-talk counterpart, The Colbert Report.

No. Under Olbermann, MSNBC is becoming something different. It is becoming a network for people who write furious diatribes on group blogs like Daily Kos; who think that President Bush should be indicted for war crimes; who use phrases like “vast right-wing conspiracy” unironically — a network for people who agree that the Republican party has reduced to lapdogs most of the journalists at ABC, CBS, and CNN, to say nothing of the contemptible Fox News. MSNBC was a liberal network. It is now in the process of becoming a network for the far Left.

Wow. I wonder who’s right. Does the truth lie somewhere between Samuel’s worrying and the NR’s indictment? Or somewhere else altogether.

I haven’t the slightest idea. Keith Olberman was a new name to me. I can’t even picture the guy. Chris Matthews I’m familiar with, if only from having seen him impersonated on SNL for years. But on Olberman I draw a blank.

23 thoughts on “MSNBC: Two perspectives

  1. Norm Ivey

    I watch Olbermann’s show regularly, and I agree–he has no business anchoring news. He is a commentator, like O’Reilly on Fox. As far as cable news goes, CNN seems the fairest, trying to present sories objectively–especially Wolf Blitzer.
    Keep in mind, Brad, that you are quoting from a magazine that describes itself as America’s most widely read and influential magazine and web site for Republican/conservative news, commentary, and opinion, which means that it, too, plays an integral role in the “intellectually offensive polarization of America.”
    I take Olbermann and The National Review with a grain of salt, knowing that it’s my responsibility to evaluate and judge what they say.

  2. slugger

    Come on Brad. You are always bringing up the fact that you are closely associated the husband and wife Tenenbaum. Great accomplishment. She did absolutely nothing to turn around our low rated school system while eating lunch everyday at the Blue Marlin (did she pay for these meals?).
    The governmental school
    system needs reforming and it is a good thing that she did not run for re-election.
    I am going to post from MSNBC below. Oberman and Matthews needs to get fired and find a life. They are not in touch with the core of the America. A good flush job is needed at some of the networks.
    Lee keeps trying to tell you folks what is going on but your minds are closed. How about you Brad. Do you have an open mind? Ready the listen?
    When or how Obama acquired U.S. citizenship or changed his name back to Barack Hussein Obama is unclear. A birth certificate produced by the Obama campaign was determined by several document experts to be a forged document.
    We know from his autobiography that he had Muslim roommates in college of foreign nationality. Now it turns out that an influential, radical black Muslim with close ties to the Saudi royal family and an outspoken opponent of Israel helped finance Obama’s law school education. Obama’s benefactor at the young age of 25 is Dr. Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour a/k/a Donald Warden. Here are some facts you should know about al-Mansour according to a Newmax investigative report:
    * “He is well known within the black community as a lawyer, an orthodox Muslim, a black nationalist, an author, an international deal-maker, an educator, and an outspoken enemy of Israel.”
    * In a 1995 book, “The Lost Books of Africa Rediscovered,” he alleged that the United States was plotting genocide against black Americans.
    * He was the mentor of Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton and his cohort, Bobby Seale.
    * Al-Mansour’s more recent videotaped speeches focus on Muslim themes, and abound with anti-Semitic theories and anti-Israel vitriol.
    * At the same time he was raising money for Obama’s education he was representing top members of the Saudi Royal family seeking to do business and exert influence in the United States.
    * He advises Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in his U.S. investments. Prince Talal is most famous for offering $10 million to the City of New York following 9/11, a contribution turned down by Mayor Rudy Giuliani because the Prince said American policies were to blame for the terrorist attacks. Prince Alwaleed has made tens of millions in contributions to Muslim-American charities, some of whose leaders have been charged by our government with terrorism-related ties. Prince Alwaleed also donates millions to Harvard for Islamic studies.
    Newmax sought a response from the Obama campaign about the financial assistance Obama received from al-Mansour, but the campaign refused to respond. This disclosure came in a very unlikely fashion. Percy Sutton, a prominent African-American businessman, was being interviewed when he described how he first came to know Obama. “I was introduced to (Obama) by a friend who was raising money for him,” Sutton told NY1 city hall reporter Dominic Carter. “The friend’s name is Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, from Texas,” Sutton said. “He is the principal adviser to one of the world’s richest men. He told me about Obama.” “Sutton, the founder of Inner City Broadcasting, said al-Mansour contacted him to ask a favor: Would Sutton write a letter in support of Obama’s application to Harvard Law School?”
    Think about how many mainstream media reports there have been this past week trying to link Gov. Sarah Palin to the Alaskan Independence Party, which supports secession from the United States. Yet, this revelation about Obama’s past received no attention from the news media. Why? Obama critic Andy Martin thinks the revelation is a big one. “This latest disclosure may be the ‘smoking gun’ that discredits Obama and destroys his candidacy.” “And I think I know where it came from. I honestly do not see Obama surviving financial links to a close adviser of a member of the Saudi Arabia monarchy, not when Saudis were the instigators of 9/11.” “Even a slight link to Saudi money would disqualify anyone from the presidency in the mind of almost every American.” I agree with Martin that it is a big revelation. But this American news media has already decided Obama is The One. I have little confidence this will make its way into any mainstream media reports.
    The above was taken from the MSNBC website.

  3. faust

    Mr. Tennenbaum thinks PMS-NBC was caving to pressure from the right by canning Matthews and Olberman? Sheesh! How about caving to the pressure of normal people who simply cannot stomach these two rabid left wing nutjobs? Or maybe the pressure of NBC management and stockholders who are finally recognizing the corrosive effect the Matthews/Olberman liberal nonsense has had on TV ratings?
    The thirty or so liberal viewers that comprise MSNBC’s audience should not despair however: The bright lights at MSNBC have decided that the supercilious, supremely arrogant and self-important David Gregory of Whitehouse press corps fame will take over for the other two losers.
    If you have ever watched this combative, hard-left biased stuffed shirt attempt to bully and steamroll the whitehouse press secretary, then you realize that his assignment at MSNBC represents little more than the rearrangement of Titanic deck chairs. Tony Snow was brilliant in his smackdowns of Gregory.
    Gregory has more substance than Olberman…who doesn’t? He’s more polished than Matthews…who isn’t?
    But this isn’t a change in stance or bias… It’ cosmetic.

  4. James D McCallister

    I must say, you all are some longwinded MFs. Word. And a lot of ’em.
    And now this one corrects a typo. LOL. A faustian bargain indeed.

  5. faust

    And just to point out the obvious:
    McCallister is a hyperinflated liberal ego with, as usual, nothing of substance to add on the subject at hand. Nope, nothing meaningful to add, just the typical smear and slur in the nastiest possible language, but without the balls to spell out his profanities.

  6. Robert

    The sad part is that when it comes to sports, Olberman hasn’t lost his touch and could easily be number one again. Unfortunately, he tries too hard to be the left-wing O’Reilly without realizing that for most of us, one Bill O’Reilly is too many.

  7. Wally Altman

    slugger, a comment written by someone who is just making stuff up doesn’t count as “from the MSNBC website”. No actual article exists, so far as I can tell; maybe you have a link?

  8. Mike Cakora

    There are two elements to success in media: brand and ratings. Owners will put up with a loss-leader in the family, the overall scheme, if it furthers the brand. CSNBC and CNN Headline News might be examples. But they can’t have a brand that detracts from the brand family’s offerings.
    Looking all over the web, there are intimations that parent NBC found that some of its regulars like Brokaw and David Gregory regarded child MSNBC’s Olberman’s and Matthews’ approach as anchors offensive, and that’s one input that affected the brand’s perception internally. The other, and perhaps the key one, was that ratings were poor, with MSNBC in last place.
    Cable-exclusive channels make my head spin because of the strong opinion content, even when I agree with it. Perhaps it’s the formula / format for the 30 minute and sixty minute shows.

  9. James D McCallister

    What’s the ego bit about “David” er “faust”? The fact that I have the stones to use my actual name and email address? Guilty as charged. LOL.
    FWIW I agree that Olbermann should not be considered an anchor. We don’t need opinions, we need newsreaders telling us what happened, not one side or the other’s version of “the truth.” That’s the biggest problem in journalism the last couple of decades, this cockeyed notion that both “sides” get to spin the reality of any given situation. Any interpretation of any given situation has but one state, that of true or not-true, but journalism has turned into a game of depicting either conventional wisdom or some partisan’s extreme position rather than reportage of facts (and at the behest and direction of the corporate masters, who make every decision for you, now, whether you realize it or not).
    Just tell us what happened, newsreaders. I will form my own opinion about what it means quite apart from what O’Reilly or Olbermann tells me is the “truth.” And if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but at least I don’t have the bully pulpit of the boob tube to sully the waters of veracity with slanted, opinionated bloviating. That’s for the blogs.

  10. faust

    McCallister: I do not feel any burden whatsoever to respond to your inanity, but I will, just ’cause that’s the kind of guy I am: I began using my last name because in another string there was another fellow named David adding his comments and opinions, which differed from my own. I did not want people to be confused. Since you apparently believe you’re the smartest guy in the room, pray tell how my use of my last name is in any way sinister?
    I point out your billowing ego and cowardly use of veiled obscenity, and your best retort is to complain lamely about my last name?
    Wow. With guys like you on the left, how can Obama lose?

  11. faust

    One other thing James: Your original cheapshot in this string was about long windedness and wordiness.
    Take a look at your last masterpiece.
    Opinionated bloviating?
    What did you do? Find a thesaurus somewhere and flip through it?
    I thought you were all about calling people you don’t know ‘mf’ers’ and tossing around idiotic and lame street references like ‘word.’
    I know this is the best you can do Mac, but it is weak. Very weak indeed.

  12. Faust

    A dictionary in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing. Especially if the moron handling it is using it like a rock.
    Buy ’em books and all they do is tear pages out to start fires.

  13. p.m.

    Good point, James. You don’t need your MTV. You can handle the bloviating on your own. In fact, you inflict the virtual hammer blow of bloviatory.
    In fact, there is no way to separate reporting from opinion, because opinion is required to decide what to report.
    In fact, spin is just spice. The truth is a salad. Use whatever dressing you like.

  14. bud

    I like Keith Olberman but he had no business as the convention anchor. He’s a left-wing opinion guy. Fox goes the other way with Britt Hume doing anchor. CNN has it about right. They seem about as impartial as you can get it.

  15. Phillip

    Naturally I’m a big Olbermann fan, not just because I tend to agree with him but because for those of us who are American history junkies, his sometimes obscure references tend to tickle our fancy. Same reason I like George Will, anybody who reveres knowledge and education is a plus in my book, regardless of political ideology. (This is why I am so turned off by the right-wing “education and the ability to string together a coherent sentence equals ‘elitism'” message. It exalts stupidity and ignorance…which is of course what the right wing needs to be able to sell you such gems as “Saddam was connected to 9/11” and “Drilling ANWR will lower your gas prices” and “We are all Georgians now.”)
    Having said all that, I agree that Olbermann is an opinion guy, not an anchor. His anger is something that many of us can relate to, but in no way can be viewed as impartial, so the MSNBC decision makes sense. And I really can’t stand Chris Matthews. (Actually, my MSNBC fave now is Rachel Maddow).
    The bottom line is that the Daily Show is just about the only thing reminding me that at least half the country has not yet drunk the Kool-Aid. Stewart’s show on Friday after the McCain acceptance speech was devastating. Obama should just run excerpts from that as campaign ads, I can’t imagine them coming up with any arguments as effective against McCain as this one. Nothing I’ve seen or heard summarizes the case that McCain has abandoned his principles more effectively than this little film “tribute.”

  16. faust

    My gosh, here’s another one. Saying that CNN has it ”
    about right” isn’t just wrong. It indicates serious mental disorder. No doubt McCallister agrees with you bud.
    With folks like you two on the left, it seems to me there is hope for conservatism in spite of attempts by RINO party leaders to do it in.
    “CNN has it about right.”

  17. Doug Ross

    American high schools should show the previous night’s Daily Show first period every day.
    I occasionally see a Stewart/Colbert bumper sticker around town and think, “Why not?”

  18. bud

    Faust illustrates just how much talk radio propoganda has permeated the non-thinking brains of so many folks on the right. He rants about how unbelievable it is than someone can actually see CNN as somewhat impartial but offers no evidence. It’s as though it is an established fact to them something along the lines of “It is simply astounding that someone acually believes the sun will rise in the west tomorrow morning”. It’s a given fact in the mind of the brain-dead Limbaugh crowd that the MSM is liberal. Funny how people will believe someone who has 10,000 documented factual errors spouted off during his career.

  19. Mike Cakora

    Even we white supremacist / racist / Republican skinheads (I added the last one because it kind of fits) find the exchanges around here a little coarse at times, not that I’m guiltless.
    There is some great really rightwing TV around that does not pretend to be news. In fact, here’s one episode wherein a rightwing author discusses his new book and expounds a bit on why he’s moved to the right.

  20. BIll C.

    What does Sam do… I mean besides worry about how the whole world is out to get the Democrats and hand out $2000 cash cards at the bus stop?

  21. penultimo mcfarland

    Instant karma’s gonna get you, bud, or else the right-wing conspiracy. Maybe even both.
    She’s well acquainted with the touch of a velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane, but the movement we need is on our shoulders.

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