The story really isn’t about whether you like Olbermann or don’t like him. Cast your personal feelings aside. Keith Olbermann was fired because he violated company policy. He contributed to three political campaigns.
Olbermann is a commentator, not a newscaster. However, on the night of the elections, he was serving as a newscaster. The company has policy that says their people aren’t to contribute to political campaigns. Apparently no distinction is made between newscasters/journalists or commentators.
Senator Bernie Sanders had the following opinion in Politico.com:
It is outrageous that General Electric/MSNBC would suspend Keith Olbermann for exercising his constitutional rights to contribute to a candidate of his choice. This is a real threat to political discourse in America and will have a chilling impact on every commentator for MSNBC.
We live in a time when 90 percent of talk radio is dominated by right-wing extremists, when the Republican Party has its own cable network (Fox) and when progressive voices are few and far between.
At a time when the ownership of Fox News contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party, when a number of Fox commentators are using the network as a launching pad for their presidential campaigns and are raising money right off the air, it is absolutely unacceptable that MSNBC suspended one of the most popular progressive commentators in the country.
Is Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz next? Is this simply a ‘personality conflict’ within MSNBC or is one of America’s major corporations cracking down on a viewpoint they may not like? Whatever the answer may be, Keith Olbermann should be reinstated immediately and allowed to present his point of view.
Thomas Fiedler, Dean of Boston University College of Communication sees it differently:
The instant a journalist contributes to a candidate or a political cause, no matter how worthy, is the moment she or he stops being a journalist and becomes an advocate. That is as true for commentators – as Olbermann would claim to be – as it is for news reporters
However, most news stations aren’t holding to that standard, as Senator Sanders points out. The question becomes then, do we all wallow with Fox while they dominate the political landscape, and fight fire with fire or do some stations rise above the obvious bias and try to adhere to the standards of yesteryear?
NBC needs to rewrite its rules to level the playing field. When one network produces its own political channel under the guise of ‘fair and balanced’ the rules of engagement need to be re-evaluated. Olbermann isn’t one of my favorites but fair is fair. Talk about bringing a totebag of David Sedaris books to a knife fight! (Thanks, Jon Stewart.) Reinstate Olbermann. NBC is cannibalizing its own.