Keith Olbermann Suspension Creates MSNBC Policy Debate, Debacle
For example, critics charge, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough contributed to a political campaign this year also, with no action taken by the network (though in fact, the contribution was approved in advance).
It turns out that political giving is not all that uncommon among cable news personalities, Politico reports, including FOX News' Sean Hannity.
FOX may or may not be the standard-bearer for news ethics, but Olbermann's suspension has opened a can of worms.
In one of several similar recent editorials, former TV news anchor Ed Dague wrote:
"NBC News President Steve Capas ... makes a huge mistake that insults his viewers by imposing the no contributions rule in the first instance. He demonstrates an outdated assumption that viewers are unable to discern fact from opinion once they have any inkling of the reporter’s personal beliefs. It is the same simplistic view that caused NPR to fire Juan Williams for revealing personal views on FOX News broadcasts. So what!"
Media blogger Jeff Jarvis wrote: "[T]he problem with MSNBC's policy that makes contributing to candidates a suspendable offense is that it prevents journalists from acting as citizens of the communities they are to serve."
Jarvis argued that it was Olbermann's hiding of his contributions that really got him into trouble, even though the underlying policy is absurd.
The larger argument, which will continue to go around and around, is about transparency in journalism. Many forward-thinking media types have gotten to this point: "We know that true objectivity doesn't exist and never did, but we can at least strive for transparency. The more transparent we are, the more our audience/community will trust us."
Transparency, and arguably consistency, are fairly foreign concepts to most businesses. So, it's no wonder that NBC stepped into this mess. At this rate, it's just a matter of how long the network will stand behind its flimsy and unpopular policy before reinstating Olbermann.