Oh, there’s hubbub, all right. MSNBC’s decision to bench prime-time star Keith Olbermann without pay for revelations that he donated $7,200 to a trio of Democratic candidates has rattled the media food chain. Plenty.
Some press observers praise the network for standing by company policy that essentially bans employee campaign contributions. Meanwhile, Mr. Olbermann’s critics are full of glee. The keen-eyed wonder about the real back story of the suspension, or if there is tension between parent company NBC and the cable network. Others puzzle: How can you can one of your big stars, MSNBC?
The answer to that is clear. The 24/7 news media has become hypersensitive about itself, and its people. Critics are many. Thanks to social media and the Internet, everyone has become a press watchdog — a very loud one. Whether this is productive remains to be seen.
The historically minded can recall that several news organizations prohibited their journalists from attending the Comedy Central “Restore Sanity” political rally just a week ago. And two weeks ago, it was Juan Williams’ turn for discipline. He was terminated as a news analyst for National Public Radio after voicing an opinion about Muslims — and violating the broadcaster’s policy about expressing personal opinion. Mr. Williams recovered and is now happily ensconced at Fox News.
Mr. Olbermann — who admitted that he had made the donations to Politico — will most likely recover, too. As a left-leaning provocateur, he is very good at what he does. And amazingly enough, he has warranted at least one conservative defender: Bill Kristol went to bat for the MSNBC host, calling his suspension unjust and unwarranted.
The outcome of this hubbub is definitely a work in progress. And a curious one.