On Tuesday, Nov. 9, Keith Olbermann resumed his position as host of the MSNBC news program “Countdown,” after a weekend suspension. Olbermann was suspended for contributing to the campaigns of three democratic politicians. While he claims not to have known about the no-contribution rule in his contract, Olbermann apologized to his fans for causing “unnecessary drama.”
In his apology, the host called the ordeal an “injustice.” However, just days before Politico broke the story, Olbermann interviewed Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, one of the politicians to whom he gave money. Olbermann did not disclose his connection to Grijalva at any point during the interview.
According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, a journalist should “be free of any interest other than the public’s right to know” and should “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.” Does Olbermann not consider openly favoring one political party over another to be an injustice to his viewers?
While I do give credit to Olbermann for using his first show back as a platform to talk about transparency, I have to wonder, whose idea was that? Rumors of a publicity stunt have been circulating since the story broke. For a network that consistently ranks at the bottom of news outlets, it’s certainly possible that these rumors are true.
But did MSNBC’s hard-line stance against the “Countdown” host work? It’s hard to say. Sure, these actions caught the nation’s attention, but I’m not sure it had the effect MSNBC was hoping for. Whether you side with Olbermann or not, most of the nation seems to agree that a weekend suspension is more of a slap on the wrist than a time out. The network’s response came across as more of a publicity statement for MSNBC than as a statement against Olbermann. But then again, why would a network want to harm the reputation of its most popular host?
It seems as if neither Olbermann nor MSNBC took this issue very seriously. Neither seemed to think of the ramifications their actions would have on their image. Their wishy-washy attitudes toward the practice of serious journalism don’t help either.
Do you think Olbermann’s actions will hurt his reputation?
Did MSNBC’s response hurt or help the network?