- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2014

The word of the day is “polar vortex,” which has inspired several thousand press accounts obsessing over the frigid weather pattern now freezing much of the nation — along with a call of fraud.

“Right on schedule, the media have to come up with a way to make it sound like this is completely unprecedented, because they’ve got to find a way to attach this to the global warming agenda. And they have. It’s called the polar vortex. The dreaded polar vortex,” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners as vortex lore reached epic proportions on Monday.

“Do you know what the polar vortex is? Have you ever heard of it? Well, they just created it for this week,” the radio host continued, adding, “The agenda is that we’re responsible, we’re causing it, we have to pay the price. And so any weather extreme now is said to be man-made, and therefore it fulfills the leftist agenda.”


The apologies, the squabbles, the outrage. MSNBC has become both dramatic tableau and news organization these days — a showcase for dirty laundry and daily programming. This phenomenon could emerge elsewhere as networks scramble for ratings, revenue, exclusive content and buzz amid flimsy safety nets and chaotic circumstances. Emotional repartee is part of the media toolbox, and it’s a trend that would have astonished old-school anchormen like Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid.

But no matter. On MSNBC of late, there was Martin Bashir’s mea culpa and resignation over his unsavory remarks about Sarah Palin, plus Melissa Harris-Perry’s recent tearful regrets after she and other on-camera folk mocked Mitt Romney’s infant grandson. Oh, but it’s a complicated script.

Independent media mogul Glenn Beck insisting Ms. Harris-Perry’s apology unnecessary, declaring, “She apologizes, for what? It was a break with comedians. Yes, it wasn’t nice. Yes, it was hurtful and divisive, if that was the intent. But it clearly was not. There are many dishonest, destructive, and arrogant people on MSNBC, but I don’t think this, by any means, was an example of a person like that.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, meanwhile, praised Mr. Romney’s gracious response to the situation, then condemned Mrs. Palin’s more strident reaction to Mr. Bashir’s insult. Somewhere in the mix is Alec Baldwin, who was a late-night host on the network for two weeks before he uttered an anti-gay slur and subsequently departed. In a Tweet since retracted, the actor wondered if he could remain on the job if perhaps he, too, cried.

And now along comes a thoughtful analysis by National Review media analyst Eliana Johnson who parsed out MSNBC’s turmoils using unnamed sources, revealing that scripts would be subject to an official review before airtime. The article also crowned prime time host Rachel Maddow the “queen” and the sole “adult” in charge. The network responded with ferocity right on cue.

“The National Review Online story is absurd and full of inaccuracies from beginning to end. To start, Rachel has absolutely no role in network management decisions. Writing her show every night is more than enough work,” MSNBC said in a statement Monday. “She gladly leaves talent management to her bosses. We’re disappointed that the National Review would run a story with more anonymous, uninformed sources than you’d ever find on the gossip pages.”

Yes, well. The airing of issues and melodrama is part of the news now, forging MSNBC into a hybrid of news and reality TV. It’s accompanied by growing pains.

“After a string of high-profile embarrassments, MSNBC appears to have decided that perhaps letting the inmates run the asylum is not the best of ideas,” observes Matthew Sheffield, creator of Newsbusters, a conservative media watchdog.


Recent Pew Research Center polling already has revealed that American news consumers get emotional toward their regular news sources: 65 percent say they will “abandon” a broadcast, print or online news organization that compromises the quality of coverage by providing incomplete stories, or fewer stories.

“Thoroughness was a bigger problem than the quantity of stories across all demographics, though it was more pronounced among Republicans, independents and Southerners and less so among Democrats and Midwesterners,” the research stated. Nielsen, meanwhile, has begun to measure and quantify viewer loyalty, and the “quality of the audience, not just the quantity,” says vice president of research Jerome Samson.

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