Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why Shouldn't the Same Rules Apply?

Yesterday MSNBC political commentator Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely without pay when it was discovered he had contributed to the political campaigns of Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway, despite the network's rules against such contributions. Despite criticisms from the right about MSNBC's seemingly one-philosophy coverage of the midterm elections earlier in the week, Olbermann's suspension has united commentators on both the right and the left in questioning its necessity.

On The Weekly Standard web site, conservative William Kristol wrote, “MSNBC’s suspension of Keith Olbermann is ludicrous. First, he donated money to candidates he liked. He didn’t take money, or favors, in a way that influenced his reporting. Second, he’s not a reporter. It’s an opinion show."

Interestingly enough, Fox News allows its hosts, such as Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee, to not only donate money but to appear at campaign events in support of candidates they praise on their programs. And many in the media have questioned exactly how the 2012 presidential campaign might be affected when a number of Fox News employees—including Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin—are expected to run.

In a post on her blog yesterday, MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow contrasted MSNBC with Fox News.

Olbermann knew what NBC policy was and he violated it, and for that, he should be penalized. But all of this brings to light a much more urgent issue—that many in our nation consider opinions to be news. Each time someone like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow states their opinion or allows their guests to state an opinion that is masked as a fact, people in our country believe and take those opinion/facts to heart. That is why things like the birther movement still exist—because the people who voice these opinions are seen as newsmakers.

Let's face it: more people get their news from television and the internet than ever before. They're called news networks, after all. Don't we have the responsibility to present the news, and not the news presented through the filter of the networks' and/or reporters' own biases?

Naive, perhaps. Necessary, absolutely.

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