Clarifying thoughts on yesterday's Keith Olbermann post
by Nathan Empsall, Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 05:19:03 PM EDT
Yesterday, I posted two quotes from Keith Olbermann on the front-page. I didn't share those quotes because, as one person suggested, I wanted to rehab KO's image, but rather because I thought the quotes themselves were worth sharing, their source notwithstanding. Unfortunately, only a handful of the 98-comments (so far) discussed the substance of the quotes. The vast majority of the thread was straight KO-bashing or KO-defending.
That's a shame. My intention was to spark a discussion not about the pros and cons of Olbermann, but about the importance in journalism of understanding history and being able to discern patterns. I thought that readers would be willing to look past the source and evaluate the quotes for their own value, on their own merits. I was wrong, and so bungled the chance to talk about the importance of "connecting the dots" in journalism. My bad.
Several commenters suggested I've lost my senses for calling Olbermann a journalist. If you read my post carefully, you'll see I did no such thing. It's debatable whether or not pundits are journalists, but no one can disagree that KO is a pundit rather than a reporter. My post wasn't about Olbermann as a journalist, but his quotes on journalists. You don't have to be President to talk about the President, and you don't have to be a reporter to talk about reporters. We bloggers, of all people, should know that.
But ok, if we want a discussion about Olbermann more than we want a discussion about journalism, than a discussion about Olbermann we shall have. Like most readers here, I do think his attacks on Hillary Clinton went way over the top. I don't think that makes him sexist, especially since he was the only male to stand up to behind-the-scenes office sexual harassment during his time at ESPN, but I do agree he let his passion get the better of him. He's done this on other topics as well, and the show was better before his "special comments" became the norm. He does occasionally become quite pompous, and that is obnoxious. Nevertheless, he does not bully or yell at his guests. He does not cut their mikes off. He gets upset when they shout over one another. He argues with his producers when they ask him to cover Britney/Lindsey/kidnapping schlock, and even quit his first MSNBC gig over it. He actually calls Bush out on Constitutional abuses. How many other cable news anchors can claim any of that?
So no, he's not perfect. He's certainly not the required progressive viewing he was starting to become. He doesn't come close to touching Bill Moyers, or even Jon Stewart. I too watch him much, much less often than I used to. But to call him scum or to yell at other MyDDers who still tune in is way over the top. I didn't join those who TR'd such comments, but I believe this community is better than that.
Now, bearing all that in mind, I'd like to try again. Please, set the source aside, reflecting not on the speaker but on the words themselves, and tell me this isn't valid, tell me this isn't something every Brian Williams or Anderson Cooper shouldn't keep in mind:
When you cover a sport like baseball or football or whatever, you're here for this part of the story. You've joined it 75 years in progress or 100 years in progress. It should be the same way when you're covering the news, particularly in politics, and yet as we've seen, people in the political world now don't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was... Part of the news is not just saying, well, this happened in the last 24 hours, but here's something that happened six weeks and there's been a development in it, you're just not reading about it, you're not hearing about it, because there's so much else to worry about it. The list, though, of things we could attach the word "-gate" to in the Bush administration is now 50 items long.