James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Dumb like a Fox: Olbermann suspended

Posted by James McPherson on November 5, 2010

Four days ago Keith Olbermann used his lead story (and Twitter) to criticize Jon Stewart for rally comments comparing the partisanship of MSNBC to that of Fox News. I agree that the comparison is inaccurate, but only slightly, and in fact have made similar comlaints myself–and for Olbermann to focus so much on that issue just looked like whining.

Today, Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely for … you guessed it … political activities–giving money to Democratic candidates who had been guests on his own show. He also used his show to heavily criticize the opponents of those whose campaigns he helped fund.

The amount of money involved is small. The principle is not. Because Fox News donates heavily to Republicans and has a stable full of Republicans on its staff, it cannot be considered a true “news” channel.

Fox folks apparently do what Olbermann did all the time. But in this case it’s Olbermann–not Stewart–who has helped confirm that MSNBC is in at least a dinghy version of the same boat.

Same-day follow-up: As reported by Think Progress, which has been providing regular updates, conservative William Kristol–who calls the suspension “ludicrous“–is among those coming to Olbermann’s defense. Odd to find Kristol and Olbermann on the same side, and me disagreeing with both of them.

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8 Responses to “Dumb like a Fox: Olbermann suspended”

  1. I stopped watching Olbermann three years ago when he became completely un-trustworthy. He should just go back to Sportscenter.

    NINJA SATIRE
    http://www.ninjasatire.com

  2. James McPherson said

    I do miss seeing him with Dan Patrick.

  3. fleeceme said

    Just felt I should call you out on this, your students should know the level of discourse you approve of.

    You posted the following comment on 8 blogs, including my own:

    “True, Olbermann shouldn’t have done it. But it’s accepted practice at Fox News: http://mediamatters.org/research/201010270005“

    This was the same comment given, regardless of what the opinion of the blogger was on the suspension of Olbermann.

    On my blog, you have still not given an honest answer as to why you felt it necessary to go after a news organization unassociated with the story? And why you also felt it unnecessary to point out they do not have the same policy regarding political donations as NBC (which would have made your case stronger).

    I would grant your feeble excuses for your one-line comment if it was reserved solely for my blog, but when I find you have done it to seven others(maybe more, you tell me), it is beyond shameful, especially for a man of your scholarship.

    Do you deny you did this? So far you have on my blog. Will you do so on your own blog in front of your readers and students?

  4. James McPherson said

    I’ve denied nothing on your blog more significant than an unwillingness to engage in silly theatrics–I devoted more time and energy to your blog than the issue was worth. And as I told you there, I’d have answered you in more detail (as I did on some of those others), had you just asked rather than resorting immediately to insults.

    But I have no qualms about letting you have your say here, or providing the direct link to your site in case anyone cares to check it out for themselves. Perhaps I should warn you, however–I can’t imagine that many students read most of my posts, and even fewer read the comments. Those who use it tend to do so for the links. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. fleeceme said

    Ok, how about, will you admit you did this, and explain why?

  6. James McPherson said

    If by “this,” you mean posting a nearly identical comment on several blogs, sure I did. Forgive me for posting mostly the same answer I offered on another site where you’ve made comments about my supposed “spamming.”

    Yeah, I offered the comment several places–because they were all talking about the same thing. Each then had the option of approving my comment, or not. Each, for reasons of his/her own, did so, just as you did, and as I did with yours.

    In some cases, the two sentences just lie there, ignored by others who go on with to other things. In other cases such comments prompt more discussion with interesting folks (some I agree with, some I don’t–you’ll note that some of the blogs above are liberal, some conservative) with whom I would not have normally interacted.

    Some of those folks have blogs that I will now read regularly, and with whom I expect to interact in the future. Some get irritated and/or defensive, and so I have no interest in going back. There’s obviously a place for that–or the Internet wouldn’t be full of nastiness–but life is too short for me to want to spend much time with it.

    If you want further clarification of the kind of interaction I do enjoy, I’ll refer you to a very old post of mine that I posted on your blog: https://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2008/06/09/begging-to-differ/#comment-2698

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to copy and paste this comment eight or nine other places. 🙂

  7. fleeceme said

    I have nothing more to say on the topic, because you obviously are incapable of seeing how wrong your bias is (you are entitled to your opinion, but your actions exclaim the activism with which you express it), especially for someone who instructs impressionable minds. What are we to infer? That the journalists of tomorrow should use base tactics to prove a point? That you don’t report the news, you guide it to a conclusion you want your reader to reach?

    Being a historian of journalism, you should know this quote:

    “Good faith with the reader is the foundation of good journalism. Every effort must be made to assure that the news content is accurate, free from bias and in context, and that all sides are presented fairly. Editorials, analytical articles and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to facts as news reports. Significant errors of fact, as well as errors of omission, should be corrected promptly and prominently.”

    I believe from your responses to my comments and my posts on my blog, that you do not believe in the principles set forth in the document I quoted from. It is a shame people like you are allowed to teach a profession that SHOULD hold ethics to the highest standard.

    This is the last I am going to address you on this topic or anything else. You are a weak excuse for a scholar, professor or man. You lack the courage of your convictions to admit when you are wrong, and instead try to weasel your way out with the most rudimentary of rhetorical arguments. The only thing you have proven over this time that you are actually good at, is being a hack.

  8. James McPherson said

    Thanks for your contributions.

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