46 thoughts on “Olbermann Isn’t Even a Shaving Off the “Conflict of Interest” Iceberg.

  1. Mike Thomas says:

    A few challenges with this assessment. Olbermann tries to play a game and it is not working for him. One day he is suppose to be an objective journalist reporting an analyzing facts with no bias or no “skin in the game”. I believe he made a comment on some talk show one time that he does not vote to validate his own objectivity. On the other hand he wants to play into the audience (albeit small) that he has created for himself and become a Jon Stewart type humorist or satirist. (who Olbermann continues to try to lick the boots of , but can not seem to warm over) Depending on who is critical of him he can choose which card he wants to play – journalist or comedian.
    I think Olbermann is more arrogant than smart. Never really seen what he provides more than if you don’t like Republicans he cherry picks video and statements that are not complimentary to the right spectrum of politics. His weak attempt at thinking he is even on the same horizon as Murrow or Huntley/Brinkley only feeds into his own delusionalism. Attacking or making cute comments on his boss in the New York Times is not brave, it just makes him sound like a arrogant Ted Baxter type gasbag.
    Let’s flip it around – if O’Reilley was reported to have given to three, two, one Republican candidate Olbermann would provide a special commentary, worst person in the world, and bring on a rep from liberal Media Matters to echo Keith’s opinions.
    Bottom line, Olbermann may be out of a job out of his own arrogance and stupidity.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Olbermann’s future notwithstanding, the larger far more provocative question also raised by BL in earlier posts, is the degree anything one might consider “objective” reporting is tainted, filtered, even ignored, beholden to the sources of revenue that make that reporting possible. There must be grand historical exceptions: CBS and tobacco? The Times and Post and the Pentagon Papers? Olbermann supporting liberal candidates while employed by an avowedly liberal program is no news other than insubordination.

    2. Mike Thomas: Obviously you choose to view Olbermann in a qualitatively different light than I do. I don’t see him making all that much pretense to your classic objective journalist. the Murrow shtick is far more a reference to Murrow’s pointed opposition to the likes of Joe McCarthy than the average “journalist’s” embrace of Murrow as some kind of icon of pure objectivity. But he annoys conservatives, I get that. What you leave unaddressed is stark difference in how MSNBC and Fox deal with “conflict of interest” and how omission and avoidance constitute “conflict of interest” among “real journalists.”

      1. Mike Thomas says:

        The pretense of Olbermann being paraded and promoted as a journalist comes from the fact that he is the “anchor” of MSNBC’s coverage of all things news and political – debates, political conventions, and election returns to name a couple. It was Olbermann and his mouth that got him taken off the beat in 2008 (and thrown off Sunday night football)
        Say what you want about FOX, Hannity and O’Reilley do not come out and moderate the coverage from start to finish. Also if we are going to do direct comparison I haven’t read where O’Reilley gave to three conservative candidates in any election cycle, or that he gave a contribution the same day he had a guest on his program. Hannity did give contributions but FOX has never promotoed Hannity as a journalist, and Hannity is the first one to point this out.
        This is not about Olbermann annoying conservatives (which he does) this is about a network trying to promote their marquee player as a journalist, when he is really a Democratic hack.

  2. PM says:

    I suppose that one way to look at this is to acknowledge that “journalism” as taught is not a reflection of reality, but rather an “aspirational” ideal–and you measure things not as “journalism” or “not journalism”, but rather by how close they come to the ideal, all the while acknowledging that no one ever achieves the ideal.

    Of course, by this aspirational standard, saying that “everyone does it” is no defense at all–the real question is how much/how often do they do it? Some do it all the time (Fox), while others do it intermittently (NBC).

    I think the problem is that journalism takes itself too seriously, and assumes that ethics is like pregnancy–you either are or you are not. Human behavior is never absolute–there are always shades of gray (unlike biology).

    1. Mike Thomas says:


      Agree with your assessment on human behavior. The problem then becomes – if you create a media persona for yourself as the last angry journalist, or a clone of Murrow and Huntley/Brinkley, spending the majority of your airtime pointing out the alleged hypocrisy of your competition and their also supposed conflicts you become a much larger liability when you are unable to meet the demands of the persona you have created. It is more than insubordination. Olbermann’s brand if you will is about being without the Fox News conflicts or “candidate in the pocket” softball interviews. Olbermann just fueled the flames of his detractors, and put MSNBC in a difficult position trying to continue to promote and brand Olbermann as the above board journalist that they have (and Olbermann likes to think and promote himself as).
      This may provide MSNBC to create a product that is missing from cable news – maybe a 60 minutes type investigation show, something without the theatrics of FOX and MSNBC. Olbermann with his small audience and repetitive rhetoric really does not mean a lot if you stop and think about it.

      1. You seem to have keyed in on Olbermann’s “angry” shtick. Given the material he gets worked up about — conservatives goading candidates and crowds with talk of armed insurrection, race-baiting, repeated and flagrant lies about health insurance reform, the birther idiocy, Obama’s “Muslim” heritage — what would be a more appropriate response?

      2. Mike Thomas says:

        Olbermann gets angry if a Republican walks down the street. This is why your other hero Jon Stewart has called Olbermann out on it several times, each time Olbermann kow towing to Stewart trying to get the respect from him he so desires. The most liberal Republican would be put on the “worst person” list if Olbermann’s proudcer found video of them talking. Lies and rhetoric are on both sides – as much as we want to convince ourselves that our side is innocent of flaming rhetoric.
        Olbermann dedicated a lot of coverage to a moveon.org protester getting stepped on. The thug who did that is no more representative of a Paul supporter than the thugs who were vandalizing Macy’s during the RNC in 2008. In the visual media age it is about what clips and soundbites are cherry picked together, and Olbermann does a good job of finding a collection to illuminate his opinion.
        A better “response” would be to see Olbermann actually take one of these guys on and debate them on camera. I bet there is a Tea Partier or Republican out there that is not afraid to match wits and facts with a frquently fired Sportscaster on a little watched cable network – does Olbermann have that courage? Or is his courage limited to taking cheap shots at his bosses in the New York Times?

      3. Did Keith Olbermann kick your dog?

        And I believe the interest everyone took in the head-stomping was that it was representative — like toting guns to Presidential rallies, regularly rationalizing ar,med insurrection against the government and ranting about “blood running the streets” — of a particular inflamed and out of control sub-culture … all clustered around extreme right wing candidates and fomented by … well, you know.

      4. Mike Thomas says:

        Ok, so hooded figures breaking windows downtown St. Paul, collecting human bodily fluids all in the name of destruction is representative in a totalitarianism that liberals are trying to oppress the nation with? Sound ridiculous? It is, but so is taking one video clip at a rally in Kentucky and saying this is representative of their supporters. Search for enough cell phone video you can make these points back and forth.

      5. PM says:

        Mike: there is one significant difference–the guy stomping on the head of the woman was with the Paul campaign. Not just a random anarchist who came along to cause trouble.

        to Paul’s credit, the campaign got rid of the guy and disavowed what he did.

      6. Jim Leinfelder says:

        MT: Watched the video you posted. The guy shouted out on a specific issue amidst Palin’s boilerplate platitudes about McCain. He was then set upon by the crowd and frog marched out of the gymnasium by what I will assume were the usual thugs for hire.

        And then, with no awareness of the irony, Palin lectured the now forcibly-absent dissenter that McCain fought for his 1st Amendment right to speak out at a political rally.

        To what was this meant to be a counter point exactly? You’ve lost me.

      7. Mike Thomas says:

        The guy was disrupting and getting physically aggressive at a Palin/McCain rally. The point is that there are screwballs in everyone’s camp. The random nut that was at the Ron Paul event is just as representative of the right as the thugs who vandalized St. Paul during the RNC (or the ones who were storing human urine), the guys running around with videos and cameras claiming Bush orchestrated 9/11 represent the left.
        Do you applaud the efforts of the man in the video in the Palin video? “Hired thugs”…..what does that mean? Do you think that Obama or any other Democrat does not have their own hired thugs at their events?
        As a cheerleader of dissent I am guessing you would applaud someone acting out and screaming at a healthcare town hall meeting..right?

  3. PM says:

    “There are multiple people being paid by Fox News to essentially run for office as Republican candidates. If you count not just their hosts but their contributors, you’re looking at a significant portion of the entire Republican lineup of potential contenders for 2012. They can do that because there’s no rule against that at Fox. Their network is run as a political operation. Ours isn’t. Yeah, Keith’s a liberal, and so am I. But we’re not a political operation — Fox is. We’re a news operation. The rules around here are part of how you know that,” – Rachel Maddow.

  4. I disagree with you on one point: At least for now MSNBC needs Olbermann more than he needs them. I’m guessing he has more than enough money to retire.

    1. I hope you’re right about them needing him more. Their “brand” will take a significant hit if he walks away under these conditions. But the “suspended INDEFINITELY” part suggests to me Griffin is waiting for Olbermann to kowtow to him. I can’t imagine that happening. But another way to look at this is if Griffin folds, he’ll have created some kind of monster in the “immune to mortal wounds” Keith Olbermann, at which point Griffin is a corporate eunuch. This is good stuff.

      1. Mike Thomas says:

        Like any other media operation, MSNBC would do just fine without Olbermann. Olbermann is at best a hash mark on the ratings spectrum of cable news, and the audience has not been growing.
        Maybe this is an opportunity for the brand (MSNBC) to do something better – something without the heat, gasbags, grainy youtube video, uninformed talking heads – real journalism, stories, in depth reporting..the kind that people on this board seem to be looking for. It’s not as if what they are doing now is building a large and loyal audience.
        Olbermann may have (and hopefully has) burned his last bridge in TV with this situation. Maybe working for the Daily Kos or writing for the Huffington Post is more to his qualifications than trying to pretend to be a journalist on cable TV.

  5. PM says:

    Maybe Olbermann’s next move should be to do a webcast of the Huffington Post? I expect that at some point some of the “new” media companies that are web only will want to try to go live–and maybe Olbermann would be the one to take them there?

    total speculation on my part, of course, but why not?

    1. Well, the Google TV demo at Best Buy is pretty damned appealing.

      Next fall, look for “Dancing with the Same Rowdy Crowd”. With Austin as Bristol Palin, and Souder as Pam Anderson.

  6. john sherman says:

    I hope that some accountant at MSNBC figures out that Olbermann brings in more cash to the network than Griffin, who strikes me as the kind of boss who pisses off the proles eventually to his own downfall.

    On Brian’s larger point, the other day the entire op-ed page of the strib was taken up with “what does it all mean” clips on the election from the usual suspects, even including the predictable ludicrous claim that Obama wants to turn the U.S. in France. Not one of the deep thinkers even mentioned what seems to me an obvious characteristic of the election: the immense amount of largely anonymous, apparently corporate, money that went into endless t.v. advertising. The Citizens United decision pushed the country further along in the direction of an elected oligarchy, not that seems to bother the pundits that D.J. Tice is willing to put on his page.

  7. Mike Thomas says:

    @John Sherman
    Did AFSCME spend any money this election cycle? Perhaps even more than the US Chamber of Commerce?

    1. john sherman says:

      If they did you can find out. And money that comes from AFSCME was voluntarily donated by the members. And I’m pretty certain none of the AFSCME money came from the state banks of Bahrain or India.

      Then there are all those groups with names like, “Really Nice Patriotic Americans for Really Good Things” which are for all practical purposes invisible both as to management and funding. Though, from their messages I strongly suspect they are not union funded.

      There is also the issue of company executives using shareholder money for political purposes without disclosing that fact to shareholders.

      1. The constant, persistent and frankly silly equation of union influence to what Citizens United (and the Republicans’ blocking of the Disclose Act) is allowing the Chamber of Commerce and other enormously wealthy individuals, corporations and foreign governments to do is, well, painful to listen to.

  8. Here’s what I don’t get: Why shouldn’t journalists freely and openly donate to political campaigns? Why shouldn’t journalists freely and openly attend partisan caucuses? Why shouldn’t journalists freely and openly discuss who they’ve voted for and why, if they so choose?

    Journalists are barred from having opinions; they’re just barred from wearing them on their sleeves. (I’m not talking about the Olbermanns of the world. I’m talking about the, say, Tom Shecks of the world. Real, hard-working journalists.) It’s absurd.

    “We can’t talk about our political preferences,” they say. “We’ll just give people more fodder to make claims of bias.” Well guess what? Those asshats don’t need any more fodder. If they’re going to make baseless claims of journalistic bias or a lack of objectivity in a journalist’s work, it doesn’t matter what the journalist contributes to the mix. And if the accusations are on target — if a reporter’s work is legitimately flawed — well, then that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

    Let the work stand on its own. Hell, as a consumer of journalism, I’d rather know a reporter’s preferences, as they might contribute to me making an intelligent judgment about how, if at all, his or her political preferences affect the reporting.

    1. Mike: What are you doing butting in here with your common sense bullshit? In Olbermann’s case, post his contributions on his website. Ditto any reporter anywhere. (Remember when KMSP morning anchor Alix Kendall got ripped for donating $200? Sometimes the candidates are personal friends.) The bottom line is exactly what you say. The asshat crowd will shriek “bias” no matter what anyone writes. But in our wiki-world actual bias will be ferreted out pretty damned fast.

      Also, to use my Pioneer Press example, is the political bias of two middle class guys going to a Springsteen concert more problematic than the publisher’s contributions? Or the corporations? Give me a break.

  9. Newt says:

    Who gives a shit. MSNBC is dead last in cable news ratings. A “journalist” who gives to Democratic candidates is hardly news, nor a surprise.

    GE was merely reacting to Nov. 2’s repudiation of liberalism. Olbermann is a bit player in a discredited fringe element.

  10. Mike Kennedy says:

    Who gives a rat’s ass? I don’t care who Keith donated to or how much he donated. This guy is so busy stroking himself on air every night that the journalist schtick is rather funny.

    I consider all talking heads at night at entertainment.

    As long as these people disclose who they donated to, like the rest of us, who cares? I’m no fan of Keith (though I do watch for belly laughs), but this suspension is hype and is likely to be a ratings boon. At least 20 more people might watch when he comes back.

  11. Mike Kennedy says:

    Like so many of your other conspiracy theories…………you’re wrong.

    But don’t let that stop you from continuing to try.

    BTW, Keith has a “star jock’s attitude”? Wouldn’t you actually at some point have to have been a jock to have a star jock’s attitude? Or can you just cop that attitude as a sportscaster since you were “hanging around” jocks?

    You know, I semi agree with your rant that the suspension is idiotic, and then you go all lefty on me.

    But, carry on. Keep on drinking your Kool Aid.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      For God’s sake this conversation has become utterly inane. The issue was an exploration of conflict of intererst in journalism. MK and Newt, and Thomas, above somewhere, you must have something better to do–and so should I.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Mom………….is that you, posting under an assumed name?

        Look Dennis, first of all, thanks for the tip on the issue of the rant — thus my point that there is no “conflict of interest” here. It is an opinion show and he disclosed it. You seem to be offended at the sarcasm. Oh well.

        Second, thanks for the advice on use of my time. It has been duly noted.

  12. “Time for a confession. The legendary correspondent Edward R. Murrow told his generation of journalists that bias is okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. Here is mine: Plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder.”

    –by Bill Moyers from a speech delivered October 29, 2010 as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series.

    – –
    There, I’ll not even pretend this will settle things. But before you resume your status quo, let me echo Dennis Lang’s admonition and also let me encourage you to read the rest of Moyer’s speech.

    I’ll not say the obvious essay/echo, but rather I’ll once again say what I’ve said before on this blog–this country needs the true adults of our society to rise up, raise up their intellect and the topics under discussion.

    1. The problem is “true adults” have this weird attitude that they are supposed to DO something about serious problems — like, you know our completely gamed health insurance and financial systems. And when they do, the brawling children who see and play only politics with every issue, accuse THEM of irresponsibility, corruption and waste.

      1. Do something…here, I know you are a busy guy, so jump in about 60 minutes in…

        We need to do something, our grandfathers and grandmothers did…and their fathers and mothers did more…but they did so well, and they wanted so much for us, their kids to have a better life, that they made us soft and happy…for 70 years, including 30 years past when we should have done something as we ignored all the dying canaries.

        But, no more. I’m ready to do something, beginning with reaching out to The Same Rowdy Crowd to lift its rhetoric and lift their readers.

        But I’m doing more…I”m still boycotting Target, and I’m writing to people who know more about the Populist movement–WE NEED A POPULIST MOVEMENT…not a party, political parties are weathervanes, we need an APOLITICAL movement than creates the wind that changes the politics. I don’t give a damn which party moves to support us, if we create a strong enough movement BOTH parties will move to support us.

        Gamed health care…stop using it. To be honest, I might be worth more dead than alive; and this isn’t the USA I want to live in either, so if my heart should attack me, better my heart than my country.

        Gamed financial systems…stop using them. My 401k was gamed so take the losses so the investment banking pyramid could slide clear. So why should I keep money there in some mirage of retirement; I might as well liquidate it and put that money into hunting land.

        Buy local, go to local restaurants that are not chains, shop at stores that are owned locally, drink beer that is brewed locally…all these corporations are owned all around the world, and the ones that are local are using their money against the people here in their community. I refuse to give them my money. So should you.

        There is always more we can do. Now is time to do it, not wait for a politician or corporation to do it for us.

    1. But if we made an effort, how could we ignore the issue and instead rant about cable ratings (as proof of journalistic merit) and unions trumping the influence of undisclosed campaign donors?

      1. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Trust me, I have no expectations that this will occur. The “persecution of the wealthy and powerful at the hands of middle and lower class political hegemony” meme and the “if it’s popular it has to be valid” meme will continue unabated right along with the “everybody’s the same” meme.

        But, to paraphrase Hemingway, “isn’t it pretty to think so.”

      2. Mike Thomas says:

        Can’t speak for others, but I have never claimed that an audience is proof of journalistic merit. In Oblermann’s case he has neither audience our journalistic merit.
        The reality is he is just another partisan hack who cherry picks the facts he likes, out of context quote and video that supports his opinions, and guests which echo his opinion. I’ll give this much to Jon Stewart – he sees this guy for who he really is.

    2. Mike Thomas says:

      What was the point of that blog posting?
      This issue would be a lot clearer if Olbermann would come out and say he is not a journalist, but a news analyst, or opinion show host, or comedian, or satirist. He wants it both ways – to be self righteous against Fox News for their alleged bias, but then to be pumping money into Democratic war chests moments after he interviews them. If this was Bill O’Reilley being found to have given money to Republican candidates, how much airtime would Olbermann spend ranting and raving?

      1. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Oh, barf. Drop the histrionics and repairing to the fainting couch, Scarlet. Quit playing dense. It’s tiresome. Who’s in doubt about Olbermann’s political bent?

      2. Mike Thomas says:

        I saw his special comment. Egotistical and self serving. (shocking) Based on the ratings numerical data the past year not many people did see it.
        Best part is his constant grovel to Jon Stewart…and his weak attempt to excuse himself from his actions.

    3. Mike Thomas says:

      Wow, another classy response James. Do you look and read before you slam both pointer fingers to the keyboard to expedite your response.
      Let me try to explain my point more explicitly so everyone can play along. Olbermann refers to himself as a journalist with integrity and objectivity. He is not fooling anyone
      So from the words of another blogger on this site “Man Up” Olbermann, come out and tell us you are a drone for the left and then be free to make all the donations he wants without that nasty “conflict of interest” hanging over his head.

Comments are closed.