MSNBC move to dump out­spo­ken co-an­chors feeds con­spir­acy the­o­ries

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JEN­NIFER HARPER

Less than a week af­ter Sarah Palin’s vice-pres­i­den­tial ac­cep­tance speech al­lu­sion to the lib­eral me­dia prompted chants of “NBC, NBC, NBC” from Repub­li­can con­ven­tion go­ers, MSNBC has dropped Keith Ol­ber­mann and Chris Matthews as co-an­chors of its ma­jor po­lit­i­cal cov­er­age.

The out­spo­ken pair will re­turn to their roles as spir­ited com­men­ta­tors, the net­work for­mally an- nounced Sept. 8 — to be re­placed for the du­ra­tion of the cam­paign by NBC White House cor­re­spon­dent David Gre­gory.

The move has be­come a po­lit­i­cal show­case of its own, how­ever, with some ob­servers blam­ing the prover­bial “right-wing con­spir­acy” for the de­ci­sion.

“The right dic­tates MSNBC’s pro­gram­ming de­ci­sions,” said Sa­lon’s Glenn Green­wald on Sept. 8.

He cited com­plaints to the net­work for their po­lit­i­cal cov­er­age of its ca­ble out­let from both Sen. John McCain’s cam­paign and White House ad­viser Ed Gille­spie, who main­tained in a May 20 let­ter that MSNBC was at times “bla­tantly par­ti­san” and did not dis­tin­guish be­tween news and opin­ion.

Mr. Ol­ber­mann and Mr. Matthews have sig­na­ture, vig­or­ous styles; their ar­gu­men­ta­tive mix did not nec­es­sar­ily play well be­fore a pub­lic ea­ger for se­ri­ous con­ven­tion news and thought­ful analy­ses. It also tried news ex­ec­u­tives called in to ref­eree the two.

Even vet­eran NBC news­man Tom Brokaw faulted the pair, say­ing that both had “gone too far,” and that they weren’t “the only voices” at the net­work. Robert Lichter, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs at Ge­orge Ma­son Uni­ver­sity, said the net­work’s in­ter­nal clash is more be­tween tra­di­tional news and opin­ion news.

“It’s not so much the in­flu­ence of the right. This is NBC lean­ing on MSNBC — es­tab­lish­ment old-style jour­nal­ism ver­sus the new­bies who con­tend that it’s opin­ion news which brings in bet­ter rat­ings,” said Mr. Lichter.

“The pub­lic is very an­noyed with the news me­dia. And they get even more an­noyed if they per­ceive that jour­nal­ists are try­ing to tell them how to think.”

For what­ever rea­son, the net­work’s rat­ings suf­fered. MSNBC was in last place for its cov­er­age of both con­ven­tions, ac­cord­ing to Nielsen. At times, the di­vide was pro­nounced. Dur­ing the last night of the Repub­li­can gath­er­ing, for ex­am­ple, the Fox News Chan­nel pulled in more than 9 mil­lion view­ers. The MSNBC au­di­ence num­bered 2.5 mil­lion.

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