MSNBC Getting its house in order 4


Photo Illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images

I am a keen news follower and I have, at various times, commented on the fact that I appreciate Chris Matthews’ Hardball and his approach. You always have a pretty good idea of his views (left-leaning Catholic Democrat from PA) but he is ruthlessly fair about going after his guests, regardless of their political position. In the last year his support for Obama has become more obvious, but I think he has remained fair. Keith Olbermann, on the other hand…well, he daily attacks Bill O’Reilly (fair enough) without ever realizing that he is the Big Head’s Dopplegänger.

After a series of rather prominent conflicts on set during the DNC and then the entire RNC crowd chanting (in not a nice way) “NBC” the mothership has removed the more vocal hosts from anchoring election coverage. The former event was documented by the Daily Show, that paragon of news reporting. Now everyone (NYTimes, NPR, AP) is reporting that NBC Universal has pulled Matthews, Olbermann, and Scarborough from covering the election directly and replaced them with more staid (not necessarily more evenhanded, let’s be honest) folks like David Gregory. The NYTimes has the best quote of them all.

In interviews, 10 current and former staff members said that long-simmering tensions between MSNBC and NBC reached a boiling point during the conventions. “MSNBC is behaving like a heroin addict,” one senior staff member observed. “They’re living from fix to fix and swearing they’ll go into rehab the next week.”

What I am disapointed to see is that Chris Matthews is lumped in with Olbermann. He does not deserve that. This is the third presidential campaign since we have returned to the States and I have enjoyed having Matthews’ views and criticism of guests during each. Matthews should, and maybe will, have his seat restored once Olbermann, Scarborough, Buchanan, and Maddow are relegated to the pundit pool.

The bottom line: We all miss Tim Russert.


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4 thoughts on “MSNBC Getting its house in order

  • Drew

    Amen to that last line. Clearly NBC still does not quite know what to do without him. Brokaw is not fitting the bill quite well enough even though he is reasonably holding serve.

  • Chris Brady Post author

    Thanks Alex. I actually commented on this over a year ago: I won’t rehash my views here other than to say that Stewart (whose show I quite like) doesn’t get the notion of genre. Crossfire is NOT a “news” show like the evening news which reports events as objectively as possible with little comment. Crossfire was a commentary program just like his show. His defense against any and all attacks, “we come on after puppets making crank calls,” is disingenuous.

    The real problem is, as MSNBC found out, when commentary creeps into, or in this case, overwhelms in a flood, what should be good old fashioned reporting. When you tuned in Crossfire you knew you were getting two angry (usually) white guys yelling at each other from polar opposite ends of issues. When you tune in the DailyShow you know you are getting parody and liberal leaning commentary on the day’s news. When you tune in election coverage, at the point of an election event, you usually expect reporting, with perhaps commentary later in the program. “So Diane, as a Democratic strategist, what did you think about the State of the Union address?”

    The irony is that while MSNBC was trying to ape Fox News they missed the bit where Fox was pretty careful to separate out the news reporting from the commentary. Having Olbermann, and to a lesser extent Matthews, in the anchor seat rather than a 5 minute aside per hour, upset that demarcation and balance.

    At any rate, please do read my other piece on Stewart’s visit to Crossfire. I actually use it regularly in classes.