Special Comment: Olbermann Indefinitely Suspended from MSNBC

It’s not often that I can comment on news as it happens, but this one is too frustrating to pass up. It was announced about an hour before this posting that Keith Olbermann, host of the MSNBC show “Countdown” will be indefinitely suspended from MSNBC because he made donations to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates without prior consent from NBC News.

Personally, it’s frustrating to me that Olbermann is being suspended. I’m a huge fan of the show, and look forward to it every day during the week. And it’s not frustrating simply because he was suspended. In doing a little digging into the story, it turns out that NBC News policy states that anyone affiliated with NBC News has to get prior approval before they can contribute to any political campaign, regardless of party affiliation.

No, this is frustrating because I know a lot of news media, and even people that I associate with every day, is going to misinterpret the story.

It seems that today, more than ever, America is a Headline Nation. We get all sorts of news and other information at lightning speed, and because there is so much of it, we feel like we don’t have time to read a whole news story. Instead, we skim headlines, and when we find an exceptionally fascinating title, we skim the first few paragraphs of the article, which we then use to describe it to our friends.

The problem is, with a lot of newspaper articles, the sensational information is located at the top of the article, to get you sucked into reading it, and the pertinent information is located at the end of the article. Which means that when you only skim the first few paragraphs of the article, you get broad statements, and maybe a few quotes. Then at the end of the article you get the numbers, statistics, and the things that actually matter.

Meaning that people reading about Olbermann will get extremely general information: Keith Olbermann donated $2400 to three different Democratic campaigns, and now he is suspended indefinitely from MSNBC without pay.

Initially, this article would have been a diatribe against MSNBC for suspending Olbermann. I would have mentioned that it is simply in poor taste to suspend someone simply because of their political leanings. It’s no surprise that Olbermann is a Democrat; anyone who watches his show should know that that viewpoint is painfully obvious. Olbermann can do what he pleases with his money, because his personal finances are his personal finances, and are not tied to a network.

However, one question can still be asked from my original idea to this idea: If Olbermann is being suspended for not getting prior consent for donating to Democrats, why was Fox News virtually ignored? After all, Fox News’ parent company, News Corp, donated one million dollars to the Republican Governers Association back in August.

“But Rupert Murdoch’s personal finances are his personal finances!” True, and if it was simply Murdoch donating to that organization, this would be a moot point. However, because News Corp itself donated to the organization, it makes everything affiliated with News Corp liable for the donation. That includes Fox News. Instead of being chastised or otherwise punished, it got a clever skewing over on Comedy Central, and then the issue was largely ignored.

I understand what issue is at hand, and I hope that whatever miscommunication happened between Olbermann and NBC News gets resolved quickly. As for the future, I hope that all news entities–anchors, reporters, and networks alike–who engage in similar activity are all held equally accountable. It’s not right that Fox News gets this free pass simply because they are a “force to be reckoned with.”

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