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.