Olbermann's Non-Denial and His Good Move

by: David Sirota

Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 12:15

On his show last night, Keith Olbermann essentially issued a non-denial denial about the GE-MSNBC-Fox story, saying that he himself was "party to no deal" - exactly what he said in the original New York Times article. There's no reason to doubt Olbermann - however, as journalism prof Dan Kennedy suggests (h/t Glenn Greenwald & Jay Rosen), Olbermann's own personal lack of involvement in a "deal" is far less important than the simple fact that GE started trying to give blatant news-content orders to MSNBC's newsroom - orders that may have been followed in places well beyond Olbermann's control.

Certainly, the fact that Olbermann resisted those orders is good news - but again, as I said in my original post, this story wasn't an indictment of Olbermann - it was an indictment of the entire corporate-news structure of the networks in question.

Indeed, in Olbermann's non-denial denial last night, he didn't refute the quotes from General Electric management, he didn't refute that MSNBC execs told its producers that they "wanted the channel's other programs [to] restrain from criticizing Fox directly," and he didn't refute this report from TV Newser saying that the parent companies for Fox and MSNBC have been in negotiations for months.

Where Olbermann really shined yesterday is in his DailyKos blog post. After MSNBC management said they'd be happy to still have on corporate PR spokesman Richard Wolffe as a "political analyst" - a blatant insult to journalism ethics - Olbermann put his foot down:

As to Richard Wolffe I can offer far less insight. I honor Mr. Greenwald's insight into the coverage of GE/NewsCorp talks, and his reporting on Richard's other jobs. I must confess I was caught flat-footed. I do not know what the truth is; my executive producer and I have spent the last two months dealing with other things (see above) but what appears to be the truth here is certainly not what Richard told us about his non-news job.

I am confident his commentary to this point has not been compromised - he has been an insightful analyst and a great friend to this show - but until we can clarify what else he is doing, he will not be appearing with us. I apologize for not being able to prevent this unhappy set of circumstances from developing.

As I said originally, beyond the benefit of MSNBC providing a much-needed counterweight to Fox News, it's clear there are definitely individuals at MSNBC like Olbermann and Rachel Maddow who have a healthy respect for journalism ethics. And it's good to see them using the leverage they have to try to make sure those ethics are publicly respected. Though they cannot pretend that the media's corporate parents have no influence in news decisions, they can - as Olbermann has in the Wolffe matter - do their part to root avoid the worst transgressions.

So in sum, on the non-denial denial, I'm not that impressed. But on the journalism ethics score, I'd say good on ya, Keith. Oh, and especially good on ya for your health care Special Comment last night.

David Sirota :: Olbermann's Non-Denial and His Good Move

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Money (4.00 / 2)
So far Keith Olbermann has been good for GE's bottom line.  However, it wouldn't take much to change that.  According to this site GE has over 7.5 billion dollars in defense contracts.  How much money do you think Keith's show brings in?  If military spending dropped by only 1%, GE would expect to lose $750 million dollars.  I don't care how popular Countdown is, it certainly doesn't bring in that kind of cash.

Oh My! (0.00 / 0)
You've stolen my realist/cynic cookies again, Mark!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I, Too Was Pleased (0.00 / 0)
I'm not an Olbermann superfan, but I do think he does very good work for someone at that level in the corporate media.  Of all the people trying to pay tribute to Cronkite when he died, Olbermann was one of the few who could do so with any legitimacy--and Cronkite, too was not without his flaws.  We're not talking George Seldes or Izzy Stone here, but at least Olbermann knows who they are, and no doubt derives some inspiration from them.

And so it was good to see him return from vacation, and turn away from the dark side.  The only newsmen & women you can trust are the ones who make their bosses nervous.

It's also good to salute good behavior, so thanks for doing this, David!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Yes good work David, helping them to see the forest while they report on the trees. (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


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