WARNING: Look back on the post much later, I concluded it was among the most misinformed I have ever written. I had planned to write about the candor of political press in the UK, and for some addle-headed reasons switched the subject to FoxNews. Read at your peril…
I was in London when the Keith Olbermann “scandal” broke, and I struggled to explain it to puzzled Brit friends. They wondered why a liberal newscaster on a liberal channel could get in trouble for being “caught out” making liberal campaign donations. The British media does not share their American counterparts’ squeamishness about announcing a political bent. If you “accused” the Guardian of having an inbuilt Pro-Labour tilt or the Telegraph of having an inbuilt Pro-Tory tilt they wouldn’t deny it or defend themselves (though they might wonder why you thought you had discovered something that they had strained mightily to make so blinking obvious). Indeed, there are a number of widely-appreciated jokes in Britain with punchlines that turn on the fact that each paper caters to a different political and class slice of the country. The Olbermann “scandal” would only have been scandalous in Britain if he had been caught donating to conservatives.
FoxNews broke the mold of American television journalism by declaring a political bias right up front. Until that point, it had been okay for small circulation magazines in the U.S. to do this (e.g., National Review, The Nation) but not a television network. Rather than being “shocked, shocked” at Olbermann’s behavior, MSNBC should put a waving Fox-like American flag in the corner of the screen and announce that they are a patriotic, politically liberal network and their reporting and commentary will consistently reflect their values.
I can hear MSNBC insiders rejecting my idea now: “But if we did that, we’d get criticized for liberal media bias” (sniffle). Man up MSNBC! Start an exchange program of journalists with the Guardian or the Morning Star if that will help you stiffen your upper lip. Fox gets trashed every day for conservative bias and they revel in it…show them you are as honest and proud as they are of what you believe.