When good TV networks go bad- the demise of MSNBC
It has long been my habit to have a television on in the background as I go through my day. For reasons that escape me, the background noise has always helped me to better concentrate.
In the old days, it was CNN that provided my daily soundtrack – until I grew tired of 45 minutes of every hour being dedicated to Michael Jackson and whatever problem was vexing the singing star while endlessly titillating the viewing public.
A change was required and I struggled over where to go next. Were I to designate FOX as the voice in the background, I feared my blood pressure would reach unsustainable levels, particularly when combined with whatever client was making me nuts as my day wore on.
Thus, MSNBC seemed the likely choice. Given my left leaning soul, I found that the tone of the network provided the comfort required to serve as the elevator music during my working hours while allowing me to more consciously ‘tune in’ as the day progressed and the ‘meat’ of the network’s line up began to show up.
Besides, I like starting my days with “Morning Joe” so I’m already tuned in by the time my phone begins ringing and my fingers get busy typing.
Sadly, that may all be changing.
Last week, guest host Donny Deutsch was presenting a series of shows on MSNBC entitled “America the Angry”. In an early episode of what was scheduled to be a weeklong broadcast, Deutsch was showing a series of clips containing media figures going a little mad with anger while on the air. One of those media figures was MSNBC’s own Keith Olbermann.
After the offending show, Deutsch was pulled off the air and his producer sent home. “America the Angry” had been short-circuited by the anger of Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, and quite possibly – and with no shortage of irony – Keith Olbermann himself.
The reason? MSNBC has a policy of MSNBC anchors refraining from attacking other MSNBC anchors on the air – a policy that grew out of the pissing match that unfolded before the cameras between Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann during the 2008 presidential election.
While some sources indicate that Keith Olbermann was the man behind the curtain wielding the executioner’s blade, the official network position is that the cancellation was solely the decision of Mr. Griffin.
When contacted by the New York Times, Olbermann said,
What I know of what happened is this: Phil Griffin phoned me yesterday enraged at what was on that show and I didn’t disagree with him.
Via The New York Times
Not exactly a sterling example of Olbermann standing up for the right of MSNBC journalists, talkers or however you care to describe the on-air personalities, to call things as they see it. While Olbermann may or may not have been responsible for Deutsch getting the hook, his statement to the New York Times makes clear that he certainly wasn’t going to lift a finger to come to Duetsch’s aid.
Whomever was responsible, the matter is made all the more unseemly when considering that this is precisely the sort of thing Olbermann would quickly take others to task for had it happened on FOX or another competitor.
This is really not the sort of behavior I would have expected from MSNBC – and it troubled me.
Still, a guy needs his background noise, so my digital receiver remained tuned to MSNBC.
Last night, I was watching Olbermann as I often do. While there is no denying his occasional never-ending tendency to bloviate, I am, nevertheless, frequently entertained by the guy and at least get the progressive point of view on the day’s news when watching his show.
He’s also the lead-in for the true gem of the MSNBC line-up, Rachel Maddow, so I usually have the TV tuned to his show.
During last night’s show, Olbermann began picking on Laura Bush and her new book. It bothered me. Was this really necessary? Despite how poorly many of us feel about the era of W, I hardly think any of us are prepared to lay the blame at the feet of President Bush’s wife.
I particularly disliked Olbermann making light reference – and inserting a small dig – when discussing an event Mrs. Bush reveals in the book involving a terrible accident when she was a teenager that resulted in the death of her friend. Apparently, Mrs. Bush ran a stop sign and produced the terrible result.
That’s not an easy thing for anyone to live with and hardly something that deserves scorn on the part of Mr. Olbermann or anyone else.
I have to admit that I have become increasingly sensitive to the fact that Olbermann can’t seem to let go of a president who is now a part of history. Indeed, he still ends each and every show with a reference to Bush’s hapless ‘mission accomplished’ speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln back in 2003 despite the fact that well over a year has passed since the man exited the public stage.
Enough already. Isn’t it time that we all move on and focus on what’s happening today and the days to come? Bush happened. Deal with it. His time in office is over. We have a new president – one I not only happen to like but someone whose presidency could never have happened but for the existence of George W. Bush.
It is also hard to escape an increasingly megalomaniacal streak in Olbermann’s behavior. MSNBC insiders suggest that there are times that Olbermann refuses to appear on his show because he is angry with MSNBC management. I don’t know if it’s true – but the very suggestion is kind of stomach turning in that it suggests that the man’s dedication to his job ends where the cry baby within begins.
Even more disturbing are indications that MSNBC employees fear reprisal should they dare to openly criticize the network.
Some of the people said the decision suggests that criticism of MSNBC is not allowed on MSNBC, potentially a troubling development. Both CNN and the Fox News Channel show media criticism programs each weekend.
Via the New York Times
MSNBC is the network of progressives and for progressives. Yet, there is nothing progressive about the network’s employees being terrified to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. Progressives also like to think of themselves as the people who ‘have a heart.’ Thus, there is nothing progressive about making fun of a difficult and terrible experience of youth acknowledged by one who has suffered from the event, even if she happens to be the wife of a former president you don’t like. It’s mean – and it contributes absolutely nothing to the political dialogue.
I don’t like ‘mean’. And I don’t like any company that puts its employees in fear for expressing their thoughts and opinions, on-air or off.
As it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the fact that MSNBC now stands for nothing beyond entertaining enough viewers to improve their ratings, while failing the walk the walk as they constantly attack others for similar failures, I find myself again on the search for a new, 24 hour news network.
Anyone have any suggestions?