This is not an exit

Educational opportunity: Keith Olbermann’s suspension from MSNBC

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2010 at 12:41 am
Keith Olbermann

Earlier this week, MSNBC star anchor Keith Olbermann was indefinitely suspended for donating to three different Democratic campaigns during the midterm elections.

So what can we learn from this?

Olbermann donated $2,400 each to Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and to Kentucky Senate nominee Jack Conway, the maximum amount allowed under federal law. The donations were made on Oct. 28, according to The Huffington Post.

MSNBC president Phil Griffin referred to the station’s policy on political donations as the reason for Olbermann’s suspension.

In its defense, MSNBC has posted the political donation policies of a variety of other organizations.

Guess what? They’re all different.

That’s right, even the nation’s most esteemed news sources — take your pick from the list above, but don’t take it to mean that I’m talking about Fox News, because I’m not — have policies concerning reporters contributing to political campaigns.

Personally, I’d have to agree with the Reuters policy. If I were to draft a newsroom policy on the subject, it’d go a little something like this:

Reporters and editors may engage in political activity so long as it does not interfere with their duty to remain objective. If a reporter or editor chooses to engage in political activity, it should not be done during work hours or with the use of company funds or equipment and any such should be reported to an editor and, ultimately, the public, immediately. The company itself will never make any such contributions to any party or candidate.

As long as the reporter’s contributions don’t interfere with his or her objectivity, there should be no conflict. It’s in this way that a political reporter can take a page from a sports reporter’s book. After all, cheering is not tolerated in most press boxes; political reporters should be expected to follow the same guideline.

But what about pundits?

People like Olbermann and Bill O’ Reilly don’t exactly hide their allegiances on air. Heck, if it weren’t for their personal views on politics, they wouldn’t be on TV to begin with. Because Olbermann’s and O’Reilly’s shows don’t operate on the basis of objectivity, there should be no problem with either personality making donations to causes they believe in.

Their editors should still reserve the right to be notified of these contributions, as should the public. Even if Olbermann and O’Reilly aren’t objective, their reports are meant to encourage transparency among politicians and they should hold themselves to the same standard. After all, how can the public trust you if you don’t practice what you preach?

Your thoughts?


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