Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 27, 2009 10:13PM

Happy Birthday, Mr. Olbermann

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I love MSNBC News.  I know I'm not alone in this -- every involved left-leaning voter I know this year has been taking major nightly hits from the network that features the special prime-time blend of Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann.  Like many of these folks, though, I watch MSNBC as a bit of a guilty pleasure.  The shows are so unabashedly and emphatically focused on one perspective -- and, during the campaign, on the support of one candidate -- that it makes some tiny bell go off in my liberal-guilty head, chiming, "But!  But!  But!  You used to criticize anyone who watched FOX News for their love of bias and blinders!  What are you doing?  Turn back to C-SPAN!"

I know, liberals, that we don't talk about this a lot, but maybe we should: there is a certain, tiny teaspoon of shame dribbled into each and every cup of MSNBC Liberal Media we consume.  Isn't there?  I watch "Countdown" -- hell, I TiVo "Countdown" -- and I love "Countdown" and I agree at nearly every turn with "Countdown," and yet when it comes time to write something, or to talk with someone, and I hear myself citing "Countdown," I have a wee moment of self-conscious guilt.

So I've constructed defenses.  My argument in favor of MSNBC's programming goes something like this: It's OK for them to choose a side, because they are up front about it.  They do not say, "Fair and Balanced," nor have I heard any of their primetime anchors1 recently even claim that seeking ideological balance on a show is a good idea.  In general, I'm in favor of that, as the "objective" style of providing constant balance has been at least in part at fault for many of the oversights of the last eight years -- lookin' at you, CNN.  Therefore, MSNBC = good source of opinion and news because by watching you choose to do the work of separating out the news from the opinion, and because you tend to get big chunks of well-thought-out analysis with every new story.

That makes it OK for me to watch and enjoy MSNBC programming at home.  The problem comes in the way that it's cited after the fact.  This is what drives me crazy about FOX News and The Washington Times -- they are both media outlets that have implied, though never explicitly stated, biases toward the right, and yet they are often used as sources on stories that are then sent via wire and Internet to all corners of the country, and inevitably I'm sitting at the table in Kansas trying to explain to my dad that, no, no matter what he heard on the news, President Obama is not planning to repeal the Second Amendment.

I fear that when I cite Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow as my source for news, I am doing exactly the same thing, only in reverse.  And try as I might, so far I can't come up with a way to get around that, aside from the simple explanation that I trust these two shows and I don't trust many shows on FOX -- which I'd like to say has nothing to do with my own ideology, but I can't swear that that's true.

Yes, I can find -- easily, thanks to MSNBC -- a laundry list of facts and figures that FOX News, in the form of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity -- have misrepresented.  There's an entire site devoted just to this ("We watch FOX so you don't have to").  A search on "MSNBC + Bias" doesn't yet pull up nearly as many articles, but it's certainly been discussed throughout the election season -- and with results, as Chris Matthews and Olbermann were yanked from anchoring the presidential debates on concern that their perceived bias would color the supposedly fair, balanced NBC News division that ultimately houses them.

I guess what I'm saying is, I like MSNBC and I watch it and I cite it, from time to time, but as much as I appreciate their caution in proclaiming themselves as standard-bearers of one side of the issue, just as much care must be taken by those of us who watch to remember that not everyone knows this, and therefore not everyone always has a chance to filter appropriately the analysis that may seem like reporting.  Otherwise, we run the risk of being exactly where the GOP media are today, running in circles, citing themselves, and completely out of touch with what the general American viewer is ready to believe or care about on each passing issue.

Tonight is Keith Olbermann's 50th Birthday, as he announced on his show (clearly, I trust him enough to believe he's not lying about his age).  Mr. Olbermann, happy birthday, and thanks for the show.  I appreciate it, I enjoy it, and even if it makes me fear a bit of hypocrisy on my own part, I think it's the best source out there for good news.

1 Caveat: Chris Matthews.  I don't know what to do with that guy.  He seems to be playing in the same left-leaning ballpark as Olbermann and Maddow, yet 1/3 of the time when I watch his show, he seems to be either taking every conceivable side all at once or he's dead set into exactly the position that I find least sensible.  That being said, I think he's a more evocative interviewer than either Olbermann or Maddow, for better and for worse.

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excellent post. I don't think it's hypocritical for the reasons you state, although I think Rachel does a better job on her show of being upfront about her leanings as well as a source of reasoned discourse, while Keith and Chris tend to go over the top. But, still...

somebody needs to.

and I also don't think there is a bit of a difference between the prime time shows and their straight news. I know that their news feed scrolling along the bottom doesn't seem quite so far left and editorially skewed as Fox News' does toward the right & the Republicans. (but then, again, I may not see it absolutely clearly)

I also think the BBC does quite an excellent job with TV News to mix it up.
I'm right there with you on these feelings. Between MSNBC and the NYT, I worry that I'm being brainwashed---so as an antidote, I read the occasional rabid opinion column in the WSJ. Seems to all balance itself out after that.

Found it hard to believe that Keith is only 50. And it's not just the silver hair.
In the run up to election night, which took up two years of America's time, I found both Matthews and Olbermann really sexist in their comments about Hillary Clinton. I do find that generally, Matthews is a more interesting interviewer than the other two. I also think that Olbermann likes to hear himself talk so much it takes him 10 minutes to get a question out to a guest, which gets really annoying. I used to swoon when Olbermann came on. Not so much anymore. Maddow hasn't let the latest fame get to her yet, it seems. Good on her, it seems.
Lps, it's the BBC that just kills me. Every time I watch it, I go, "Oh crap, I'd forgotten how bad things actually are!" And I agree with you that Rachel Maddow is better about the reasonable discussion, because she never interrupts anyone. And I think she's a little more clear about her bias perhaps because of her Air America background, but I don't exactly know why I think that. Perhaps because Talk Radio is just more upfront about its biases in general than TV, and so it's more acceptable to mention them aloud?

m.a.h, I was surprised to hear he's just 50, too, but then I thought, huh, I'm not sure how old I thought he was. Mid-fifties, sometimes, and mid-forties others. Depends on the energy he's putting into his comments, I guess.
Ann, I do think the coverage in the primaries was particularly fraught for those two, like you say. I can't remember the specific instance, but something Keith Olbermann said about Hillary Clinton was making the rounds for quite a while as a particularly sexist remark (though I don't remember seeing it on the show). He does seem to have a bit more of a sense of humor about his own fame than, say, O'Reilly, but I agree he can sometimes seem a little too eager to enjoy his pulpit, too.

Totally agreed on Maddow, though -- she seems so far like she feels that every night on air is a privilege. Love her show.
Saturn I struggle with what passes for TV journalism these days. The days of the big budgets and reporters, producers and videographers gathering news from around the globe now seems to be replaced with the talking head, the think tank expert, the political analyst.

Back in the days of Cronkite, Brinkley, Reasoner, Smith, and McNeil/Lehrer, there seemed to be better editorial control, better fact checking, and better reporting. I am a 50 something so perhaps I'm just an old fart waxing nostalgically for the good old days.

I struggle that TV journalism has become infotainment. Remember, that MSNBC took Donahue off the air, because he was too liberal. Remember Phil Donhaue...the original Oprah?

Watch the movie Network from 1977. It was written as satire. It's become reality.

As far as interviewing goes, the really tough questions don't get asked. (rated)
I enjoy Keith and Rachael too. In fact, I'm watching Keith now as I wander through OS tonight. I watched religiously during the campaign, but now I admit to watching basketball and hockey games too. But, and a big but, I am "up to here" with Chris. He is so hot and cold. I swear you can tell by the look on his face at the beginning of the show as to his mood and how he'll treat people he doesn't agree with. There are nights where he just tramples all over his guests, just seconds after he asks a question. One time a few months ago he was even doing this to Eugene Robinson (W Post). Robinson tolerated it but the look on his face said it all. I could do without Chris. Enjoying your posts.
Sheepdog, I do agree, particularly on the network news side of things, that the industry looks nothing like what it used to. Strangely it seems to be a reaction to or an effect from the advent of cable news, which originally seemed like it would allow for more in-depth coverage and has now somehow encouraged less. Infotainment is a pretty good way to put it.

Thanks for the comment!
Grif, that's a good way to describe my thoughts on Matthews -- hot and cold. When he's on, he's great, and his interviews really work with people -- particularly members of Congress or the administration. But on nights he's annoyed, it devolves so quickly into shouting that I admit, I often turn away.
Love your post. When I watch anyone this much I begin to see faults. Matthews commits the unforgivable sin of cutting his guests off mid sentence WITH ANOTHER QUESTION. A guest has about three seconds to get an answer in with that guy.

Olberman has an agenda and good for him. He doesn't like stupid wars or torture and he goes after it night after night.

This kind of journalism serves the country well. Take the firing of attorneys in the Justice Dept. Network news producers see a big complicated yawner and let it go. If it takes five minutes to set the table for 15 minutes of discussion, so what, says MSNBC. They've got all night. They have created their own niche in the political media and I say good for them and good for us.

My biggest complaint is the split-screen debate with five or six people all talking at once. Useless.
JimmyMac, good points. In some ways I think MSNBC is actually living up to what it was originally advertised as being able to do by being the Internet/computer friendly (Micosoft/NBC) network: it's using its time to go more deeply into topics. At least it is during its news programming. I can't speak to "LOCK UP" or whatever that show is that takes over on weekends.
I first got into Countdown at the height of Olbermann's campaign against the Bush torture policies. I didn't see anything particularly leftist in opposing torture and I still don't. I don't even see anything necessarily left-leaning in the denunciation of Bush, lots of conservatives will do so when pressed. But once the primary season heated up, the advocacy of Olbermann and MSNBC clearly passed into unashamedly political advocacy and I have to admit that I have never been able to enjoy the network as much, or watch it as consistently since.
Keith Olbermann pioneered the liberal tv news magazine. I like Rachel Maddow and have been a fan of hers since the early days of Air America. Chris Matthews is all over the place all the time. There is nothing hypocritical about loving MSNBC. The reason the ratings at CNN are in the tank is because they don't stand for anything and don't inspire viewer loyalty because they are boring. I get the substance of a news story more readily on MSNBC than CNN because they get to the kernel of the story. Maddow is a nice touch on MSNBC. But Olbermann's edginess is what distinguishes him and puts him into a category by himself. Here's to another 50 years for Mr. Olbermann.
I'm not sure you need to apologize for liking MSNBC. We all migrate to those sources that apeal to us. I personally don't listen to limbaugh becasue I can't stand to listen to him drone for three hours at a time. I could see Olberman affecting me the same way. Though I do occasionally tune in so I can see what a child molestor looks and sounds like. J/k

I no longer limit myself to any one news source. I've become a political agnostic of sorts with somewhat conservative leanings. I believe partisan politics is ruining this country and for that reason I hope you're not limiting your sources.
I've been in love with Keith for years. Want to invite him to dinner (And my close friends know I want to have his babies. They tell me I better arrange an introduction soon, since I'm hitting menopausal age, but no matter.) Now I'm hooked on Rachael, too. Their programming during the presidential campaign was must-see on a nightly basis. Their indignation just matches my own and I don't care if anyone thinks I'm biased. Hey, I'm a liberal democrat and proud of it! Why all the guilt? My 88 &89 year-old parents watch Countdown every night, and you better not make any noise when it's on or you'll get unceremoniously shushed. A tiny problem occurred, however, when I turned on MSNBC during the inauguration and heard the voice of my loverboy, Keith, yakkety-yakking a little too much during the festivities. His incessant chatter was annoying and I actually switched channels to CNN. Welp, I guess the honeymoon is over. (But I wish Keith a wonderful 50th. Keep on ranting, sweetie!)
I understand your reluctance to cite to Olbermann and Maddow. But I would gently point out that their shows are not and have not ever been put forth as news shows. They are commentators and they give opinion -- usually well supported by research, but opinion, nonetheless. Just because some folks use them as their sources of news information does not make them such. So any time you cite them, if you label them as commentators, you are doing your duty to your readers by warning them that there may be some bias here and I see no reason for feelings of guilt.

That said, I adore both Keith and Rachel and am relieved to at last have someone on television espousing the views that I hold. If I want news I will turn to my daily dose of the BBC, Public Radio, and several Internet sites.

As for Matthews, I really cannot listen to him for long. I find him to be more of a bulldog than a thinker, so I quickly become impatient with him. But I am sure that he has his following. . . .


Happy Birthday, Keith! ;-))
Hey, another guilty lover of Maddow, Olbermann, and Matthews. I know they are skewed to the left, but as you say, Fox needed an answer. It's not the way a news network should be, but it's the way it is. So I applaud NBC for coming up with an answer to Fox.

I thoroughly enjoy all three of these people. Matthews says stuff at times that leaves me shaking my head, but he's funny and he's over the top. He's Larry King with a sense of humor. Olbermann is pure entertainment. Maddow is sort of the calming effect after the fact. She is a good journalist. I will be surprised if she stays on that show long term. I feel she has much to offer the journalistic world.

Great observation on your part and I share in your guilty pleasure.

What a wise look at your views of MSNBC. I think you are very much like Keith & Rachel, always stating your view with conviction and thoughtfulness.

Saturn, all of your post are insightful and knowledgeable. I enjoy reading them immensely. Thanks (Rated)
I am drawn to MSNBC and FOX the way I am to a roadside accident....potentially grusome, not something I really want to see, not something that will do me any good...but a lesson in what happens if I am not careful.

Add my name to the list of Rachel Maddow admirers.
Yet ANOTHER fan of both KO and Rachel.
While I enjoy the humor and entertainment side of KO, he also has legit stories and is right on about "Are the troops home yet?"
Rachel, on the other hand, is more subtle with her humor and seriouser with her comments and the manner in which she does her stories.
She is so far and about the "flaky and boring" talking heads in intelligence that, her extremely high IQ is totally evident, even though she NEVER flaunts it.
It is THERE.

Chris "Mr Spittle" Matthews on the other hand~~~~~~.
Ah well, if someone interrupts me while we are conversing, I tell them about it.
If they continue, the conversation is over.
This is why I NEVER watch him.
I'm waiting for someone to 'bait him' with opening their mouth without speaking and pointing & laughing at him when he interrupts.

As for KO being 50, ahh, that's just a little boy.
I was 50 once butt, I'll have to look it up.lol

Here is something which I'd like to ask all of you;
I used to email Countdown.
Then it was impossible to email the show.
Now, I don't even SEE a place to email the show.

Do any of you have the addy to email KO's show?
Rachel Maddow and Keith became my choice because they spoke to reality, talking about the absolute ridiculousness and quackitudes of what was going on in our government in terms very much like I and my associates would . Somebody had to do it and they did, so I really appreciate their contributions. Of course, "the other side" would not. They may be biased on the left because the right was really behaving badly. Sometimes, in our helplessness over the situation, just their humor helped it all go down better.

I don't like how any of the media covered Hillary's campaign, especially, CNN, and that is when I stopped watching CNN, after years of devoted attention. Whenever I flip over now, they seem so lame. Chris Matthews is, indeed, another story. Most of the time, I find his coverage that of a gossipy old woman. He plants a story out of nowhere and tries to build it into something and he continues to have a really pathological issue with Hillary and "the Clintons", almost an obsession, long after others have seemed to move on. Once in awhile, he does a really good service, as with Michele Bachman's interview, and others when he holds people to accountability and I love the way he uses literary references to the goings on. But, overall, he is irritating and not in the manner that provokes thoughtful consideration but in the manner that you want to tell him to just "shut up" and get therapy or to stop his gossip.
I'm not sure if it's the lighting, camera angles, sound, staging, but for technical reasons, I simply cannot stand to watch and hear either of these two. The production design is over the top and not flattering to either. I think "over-produced" comes to mind, like a bad audio recording. In my opinion.

Do any of you have the addy to email KO's show?
Here in Western Mass we quote MSNBC commentators by their first names -- "Keith pointed out..." or "Rachel was clear on that last night".
There isn't a soul who doesn't know who we mean. And none of us has a moment of guilt. And each morning we rehash -- it's like being nine years old on the school bus, the morning after "I Love Lucy."
Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are great, but IMHO Chris Matthews is the best of the line-up.
If I'm going to watch news, it seems like I always choose MSNBC, though I never bother to DVR any of the programs if I'm not home.

Since the election, however, I find that I get more and more irritated by their focus. The one thing all of the MSNBC shows have in common is that they are inherently political. The focus is always on the political consequences of the news. I wish there was at least one show that was strictly an analysis of the news itself, not just the political ramifications of what has happened or is happening on that particular day or week. Events DO have outside the beltway consequences for "real people," and I'd like to see that angle, not just what Pat Buchanan or Eugene Robinson thinks.

And I sure don't need to see MSNBC giving so much airtime to Republican blowhards going on and on and on about the importance of tax cuts. Jesus Christs, does anyone really buy that bullshit anymore?
i have to admit, like saturn, that i am an msnbc groupie and really hate to be annoyed with them. so happy birthday keith. since i haven't been able to care about politics since the kennedy administration (when i was in high school) your station has single handedly brought me back into the fold. worked on the campaign and everything. re: comparison with rachel and chris? first of all not fair. i thought you guys were supposed to sound a little different. and...well doesn't fixed noise give us the same stuff spewing out of different heads? at very least, msnbc (which i described in an e-mail to rachel as the shrine at which we worhip nightly), is f--r and b--l--ced. otherwise, our ears might bleed.

hey keith, 50 is great...it's the new 45! i'm 62, the new 61! and i lived to see the country change - in my opinion, your left-leaningness helped a lot. one exception...please tone down the color commentary during the really important speeches (i.e. talking over the candidates during the democratic convention!!! duh.)

happy b-day ko.

marilyn swiss, vt & ny
Olbermann and Matthews, during the primaries, said some awful things about Hillary (O said she should go in a room with a tough guy and not come out, etc., implying violence) and he had a commentary on her as seething as the ones he did on Bush.

Since then, I have replaced my adoration of him with general approval

Rachel is a darling, dear, bright light. LOVE her.

Matthews, annoying, fascinating, all over the place. Loves Obama. Loose cannon. Loves Joan. So I watch.
Bias is fine in editorials and commentary. It isn't in regular journalism, but anyone can tell you it's there all the same: in the questions that are asked, the facts that are included/omitted, even in the decision of what stories are covered. The editor of the small-town paper where I used to work told me there is only one truth, which is what happened; the rest is all editorial. Susan Musgrave's essays on bias in photojournalism are excellent reading.

I enjoy watching Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann as well, although there are times when Keith's admonishments and harangues really crawl up my nose. There seems to be this place where his passion--which is so pleasant to hear, usually--goes too far. So, on one hand, we have this beautiful defense of gay marriage which gets copied and embedded all around the internet, and rightly so! On the other, numerous diatribes that aren't remembered, not because he was irrational or incorrect, but because he was unfair and so over-the-top with his anger. It's a shame, because usually he has some really worthwhile things to say.

Chris Matthews is something else. If he would just lay off with the browbeating and out-shouting his guests, then I might be able to watch him. This rapid-fire shoving words into his guests' mouths and making them just sit there unable to get in a word edgewise, and leading questions, ad hominem attacks ... I mean, really! Has he so little confidence in his facts that the only way he can make a point is to blast verbal abuse at his guests?
Saturn- I am appalled to see you, a young woman, so enamoured of Keith Olbermann. First of course was the mindless tirade about Geraldine Ferraro when he suggested Clinton was "mired in filth"--when Clinton had no relationship with Ferraro or her comment. The next was the ridiculous "sniper fire' expose. Sure, presidential politics is hardball--and it should be--but Clinton's embellishment was small potatoes in comparison to the endless fabrications of Obama from his memoir (wasn't Frey publicly castigated for making things up in a memoir?), his resume (Professor Obama?) his legislative accomplishments (Maytag? Exelon?). Olberman's relentless drumbeat for Clinton to leave the race and suggestion that "someone should take her out back and only they return"? You're good with all that, Saturn? How about calling all the NObama people racists---on AIR--with no evidence? I understand there are a few lawsuits already headed Olberman's way on that score. Face it--this guy is a demogogue whose sense of objectivity has been compromised by too much botox. In his personal life, I understand he has a reputation for treating women poorly, and his on-air persona is one of hatred and malice toward anyone who differs from his narrow point of view. I've been a liberal Democrat all my life; we're the good guys who believe in respecting other people--protecting not just their rights--but their right to an opinion that differs from ours. So, in spite of the fact that I share most of the same positions as Mr. Olbermann--I do not applaud him. We should fight intolerance in all its guises--and Olbermann is nothing more than a bully pumped up by his own ego.
Happy Birthday Keith! I have had a not so secret crush on Keith since I was in college and he used to host SportCenter. With his blend of sport addiction, left leaning views and self deprecating humor he was the perfect fantasy boyfriend.

Thankfully I found a real guy who had all those traits too and have been married to him for 14 years and now we both DVR Keith every night and watch Countdown together after our kiddos are in bed.

Like Saturn I feel a bit hypocritical since MSNBC and NBC are pretty much my only new source when I cite them but I am a busy mother of two with a tremendous work/life juggle going on so I have to get my news in the most efficient and entertaining way I can. I unfortunately LIVE in KANSAS so most of my interactions are with those who are have no problem quoting Bill-O and Hannity to me at every turn so I don't need to tune into their shows to know what they are spewing. I only need to linger at school drop off and listen to the Catholic mom's who have been called to action by the local bishop regarding the Freedom of Choice Act. Without Keith I wouldn't have snappy comebacks and intellectual commentaries in my vocab. His show is like cliff notes for busy liberals and for that he will always be my not so secret crush!
Libertarius, yeah -- the primary and general election advocacy was a real wake-up call to me on that network. I think that's when the tiny bit of guilt started.

Steve, "liberal TV News Magazine" seems like a great way to phrase what Olbermann does. I like that quite a bit.

Ed, thanks for the comment. I'm not feeling too apologetic for watching, but sometimes for citing, if that makes sense? And I do still read quite a bit of conservative media, though I've found I can't generally tolerate watching or listening to conservative commentators. In print, they seem more reasonable, for better or worse.

Cassandra, you're saying better what I meant, that it's important to label Olbermann and Maddow's shows as commentary when citing them in order to report honestly. Thank you.

Greg -- Larry King with a sense of humor! HA! I like Chris Matthews waaaay more than Larry King, though.

GMGaston, that's very kind of you to say. Thanks.

Splasher, that's an interesting view -- do you watch any other sources of news that don't elicit such a response?

Jimmymac, it's a long list!

Hmm, good question, XJS. I don't see a way to e-mail, but it looks like you can comment on the Countdown "newshole" blog here.

TommyeJean, I agree that Olbermann in particular (and Maddow once she started) have done a great job in breaking news items down with reasonable language and entertaining segments -- you're spot on.

Dennis, that's interesting -- OIbermann's show does seem very scripted, which I think even he admits. I wonder if that's part of it?

Wendy, I've heard (and done) some of that myself!

Michael, have you been a longtime Matthews fan? A lot of the people I know who love him really have been watching Hardball for a long time.

Stellaa, I think they do hold to some standards of journalism simply by declaring themselves opinion-laced shows. But I can see how they would grate for some.

Ah, Blake, the political bent is something I enjoy about MSNBC, which is really trying to brand itself as "the place for politics." And at least they usually call the "Republican blowhards" on their "bullshit" once they've shown the long clips, instead of just giving them a long space to make a point.

Marilyn, what wonderful greetings! The new 45, indeed. You don't look a day over 60.

Lea, I never saw that Olbermann comment but I remember hearing about it, and yes, it certaily tempers my adoration. And you're right about Matthews -- I definitely watch when he has Joan Walsh on, and her presence raises him in my esteem.

Stephanie, thanks! You know, I think it was the special comments that did it for me, too.

The TV BBC, LuluandPhoebe, used to be my way to start the day, until it so depressed me that leaving the house was difficult. (Only a slight exaggeration).

Alexandra, "Fundits"! I love that. May I borrow it? (With credit, but of course).

S.K., the question of bias in journalism is a big one for me, because like you say, I believe it's there in everything, so I think I more easily respect those who admit it than those who deny it. Good points on them all.

Emily, I admit I wasn't watching much of Olbermann during the primaries, so nearly every instance you've named is one I haven't seen first-hand, but I'd be happy to watch any of them if you have links to their clips. Overall, I found him politically opposed to Hillary Clinton (the case for which can be made, validly) but I didn't first-hand notice explicit sexism in his commentary. Again, though, I didn't see the points that you're talking about, so maybe I've just missed every single day that he's got his sexist hat on. I do agree that he was a much bigger Obama supporter in the primaries, and I certainly agree that influenced his commentary and how much time the show spent on trivialities like Clinton's exaggeration about landing in Sarejevo.

KCMom, I totally feel your pain about the preponderance of O'Reilly fans in Kansas. Every time I return home to visit, I get beat up by citations of FOX news as the Bible. Sigh.
Television is the absolute worst way to get news. The only way to make it worse is to get news from celebrity pundits who are more concerned with developing their brand than pursuing the Truth. MSNBC and fox are equally bad purveyors of information.

Keith Olbermann is a liberal version of Hannity. Smug, self-righteous, image-controlled to be a supposed archetype of his audience, and an ideological zealot. Just because he's on our side, that doesn't make it ok.

The purpose of being liberal is not to just have opposite opinions from conservatives. It is to be intellectually open an unconstrained by entrenched thinking. To give in to that type of political bandwagoning is an inherently conservative act. To refuse to provide a mirror image of their way of thinking, and to refuse to sink to their level in some spin-oriented race to the bottom... that is the real Liberal choice.
You know, Justin, I agree with you in theory, but in practice, I'm not sure in practice that watching Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow is brainwashing me, so long as I'm aware of what I'm watching.
"Keith Olbermann is a liberal version of Hannity."

"How about calling all the NObama people racists---on AIR..."

Funny how people who offer these opinions and make these claims never seem to have any concrete evidence in support, (i.e., quoted material, video clips, etc.) but rather only expose their own biases. Which is rather ironic given that it's bias and unfairness that they are complaining about in the first place.

Like Saturn, I don't watch Olbermann every day, and sometimes go weeks without watching, but the chances of him calling all those who didn't support Obama "racist" without it having been a major media shit storm are basically zero. In fact, the claim is so vague and bereft of details that I don't know how anyone else could even Google it for verification. I tried.

There's enough truthful stuff out there to criticize Olbermann on without having to make shit up out of whole cloth, or to repeat indefensible talking points like "Olbermann = Hannity."
I find I want to stuff a sock in Matthew's mouth whenever he is speaking. He has an annoying habit of asking a question, letting someone begin to answer, and then appending the question 3,4 even 5 times. Olberman has his rants and biases but I find him less frustrating. My personal wish is that he would ask shorter, less leading questions. Given that he interviews the same 5 or so people every night, he shouldn't have to do that in order to get the answer he presumes in his question.
I enjoyed Maddow on the radio, and I liked her more when she first came on the TV scene. She was respectful and sharp, so her interviews were less trumped up than Olbermann's, but lately I find her trying to be way too cute. So when I get home now, I generally look for Jim Leher and crew for my first blush at the days activities before I put on MSNBC.
Now, if they would get rid of the arrogant Scarborough and the clowns he surrounds himself with in the morning, they would improve the channel exponetially! From time to time he has been entertaining (rarely) but the rest of his crew (especially Mika) arent worth the pile of electrons it takes to put them on my screen.
"Keith Olbermann is a liberal version of Hannity."

Funny how people who offer these opinions and make these claims never seem to have any concrete evidence in support, (i.e., quoted material, video clips, etc.) --"

I said that, but I doubt I could "prove" it through any documented sources. I'm talking about Olbermann's tone, his choice of topics, and his personal politics which he makes clear. Both he and Hannity are partisans. Both he and Hannity present themselves as citizen-journalist pseudo-intellectuals. Both he and Hannity are mouthpieces for their ideologies, and I have never seen either one question a basic tenet of their chosen institution. Both he and Hannity are prone to exaggeration ("the worst person in the world!"). Both he and Hannity have a direct interest in keeping politics partisan, combative, and divisive..

Those aren't statistically or empirically provable points. They're observations about how the media personalities operate, and I see an incredible amount of similarity.

And just because I agree with Olbermann on practically everything doesn't mean that I like the way in which he portrays liberal thought.
I watch tons of msnbc, and lost most of the guilt a few weeks ago. What you said about cnn is important- as the longest running cable news network you would expect them to at least aspire to impartiality based on facts. Maybe the last 8 years confused them; seems to me they just seem to want to be Mtv, jamming the screen with news bits, diagrams and top-dollar pundits, yet still failing to keep or hire relevant anchors short of blitzer or anderson cooper(being generous here). Larry King can't be pulling hard ratings anymore, and Don Lemon has some kind of twitter fetish. Since evil Comcast pulled c-span from my basic cable, Msn is all that's left.
To me, the defining difference between Hannity and Olbermann--which dramatically overshadows any of the irrelevant similarities they may share--is the fact that Hannity and the truth are mutually exclusive. Hannity is a liar, and he knows it. You can agree or disagree with Olbermann's opinions and conclusions, but he goes out of his way to base them accurate facts. The extent to which Hannity lies, obfuscates, misleads, to argue his case renders any comparison between the two men ridiculous.

And I don't think Olbermann is necessarily portraying "liberal thought." He's arguing a partisan viewpoint. Which doesn't make him dishonest, it makes him a partisan. Hannity's a partisan too, but that's where the similarities end. If I ever though Olbermann was deliberately trying to mislead people--like Hannity does, day in, day out--I'd stop watching immediately.
I am a fellow MSNBC junkie. I LOVE Keith Obermann and I love Rachel Maddow. I love Chris Matthews. My husband and I get our daily fix. And I have no idea what you are talking about...MSNBC is the most unbiased objective reporting I've yet to see :)
Stop with the guilt. The Right is so wrong, so morally bankrupt, such a terrible fascist mindset there is no need to ever feel obligated to their "opinions" (trickle down, with us or against us, ad nauseum) on policy.

Lets be crystal clear -- by far the majority of educated, intellectual people agree with the majority of MSNBC commentators, who, as a group are super qualified policy wonks.

The Right is made up of un/under-educated credulous imbeciles, silver spoon born-into-it's, insulated snobs, true fascists and a smattering of self-hating "minorities".

Everything they do creates suffering for someone, somewhere.

Happy Birthday Keith!
We had decided, for financial reasons, to go from the "get almost everything for a reduced price for one year!" level of cable tv we had signed up for last year to a lower priced, "basic" level which does not include CNN nor MSNBC.. nor Fox Spews....I was willing to do this because the savings really WOULD be significant ,to us, as we were also going to let go of our land line and use only our cell phones, we figured we could get Chris and Keith and Rachel and hell, even Anderson the cutie, on the computer...then the other night I was busy typing away with Rachel and Keith on the TV and it dawned on my poor boomer bird brain that I need both, computer and MSNBC,( and CNN too sometimes ) AT THE SAME TIME! I cancelled the appointment for the guy to come and take away the magic boxes and paid the unrighteous bill ("Why?" I asked, do I have to pay for a zillion Spanish programs, although I love and appreciate Espanol, I tried to reassure , in SPANISH , the obviously offended bi-lingual customer service agent ! )

Chris Matthews is my favorite and probably because he is so transparent, wears his heart on his sleeve, doesn't try to be snarky, is so genuinely enthusiastic about the future of this country, and has shed tears of joy for Obama's Presidency as well as those famous "chills up the leg".....he hits the center where I often reside once in a while and then , with his honest, can't hide an emotion, Irish face, lures me gently to the left...
Perfect post. And I'm an unbiased reader! (cue: hysterical laughter)

I know what you mean about Matthews. I referred to him, in a courtroom of criminal prosecutors, sprinkled with a few criminal defense attorneys, as having a conservative bias, and they All wanted my head. He's a conundrum. I'd like to pass it off to mere narcissism, with a daily tweak of the perverse, but I don't think it's that simple. I just don't know what it is, exactly.

Re: Olbermann. Geez, this guy! I love him, always have, and forgive his fauxes the way you'd forgive a beloved, but outsized, personality-wise, uncle. I wince when he fks it up and I cheer when he fks Them up! Bronx or otherwise! Just reading this here, now, today, as compromised as I am by Zicam and multi-symptom cold medicine, an analogy came calling: You know The Daily Show, as Jon Stewart proudly and even (appropriately) thuggishly proclaims, "A Comedy Show about News!" has had, or he had, to defend himself against getting it wrong, or having a bias, etc. It's not real! It's a comedy show about news!

Hmm. Just thinking aloud here. I'll go masticate Mr. O's intents; slap on some Vick's and check back in later. Safe in bed, I'll watch and re-watch my favorite Worst Person Evers!
I see listening to Rachel, Keith & Chris as debriefing The Smartest People I Know. I use my own puddin' head to accept/reject/muse upon what they say, they're not the boss of me. But if I *had* a boss, I could do worse.

Take a look at "MSNBC B da Shiznit 4 Election '08" if you wanna at:

You're right Blake. Truth matters, and Olbermann has it on his side. Nor is he portraying ACTUAL liberal thought. However, he does serve as a visible, famous spookesperson for liberals, and he is a liberal icon of sorts.

I just think he is bad for the Liberal brand. Who do I think is the best liberal spokesperson on TV? Jon Stewart. Because he's smart enough to realize that TV is such an inane medium for transmitting and analyzing news that the only way to stay sane is to lampoon it... while still providing more insight than any other news show!
Am I to understand that silence is a snobbish hint??

Do any of you have the addy to email KO's show?
January 28, 2009 11:02 AM"

If this is a surreptitious way of saying "We don;'t want you here", would someone kindly and courageously say so.
All I did was twice ask a simple question.
I didn't mean to click on your clique.
Well, XJS, not speaking for a clique, but I know from personal experience it's difficult to email KO's show. I've been to the MSNBC website - it's been a couple months back - and there's a general email; and there's ways to denote him therein. Otherwise, you can try all the ways one tries this - via email sources, email tags, and the like. I think if He wanted to be contacted, there'd be a Contact Me place on the webpages, but there's not.

Don't get all para. Maybe no one knew what "addy" meant....

There's lots of places on this page for you to add your input; including the general waste of time of Mailing a Letter to Rockefeller Center! You ain't getting to him, but you're welcome to try.
Tim4Change -- My personal wish is that he would ask shorter, less leading questions. Yeah, I agree with you, there. It does make the whole show seem a little circular sometimes.

Heehee, MaryT -- absolutely unbiased! I'm glad to hear in so many of these comments that news viewing is a family affair among OS'ers. Fantastic!

Oahu, I'm working on the guilt. Maybe "awareness of my own bias" is a better term?

Scared Grandma, I admit that CNN and MSNBC are my reasons for an exorbitant cable package. There's got to be a way to get them declared "basic" cable, right? Oh, for a pay-for-what-you-watch cable package. Good-bye, golf channel!

And you're totally, totally right about Matthews' genuine, eager enthusiasm for the country. I do enjoy that.

ConnieMack, your comments always crack me up. forgive his fauxes the way you'd forgive a beloved, but outsized, personality-wise, uncle. Precisely. Wonderful.

Xanadu, thanks for the link -- and I like that idea, debriefing the smartest people. It's interesting to me how "knowable" KO, RM, and CM seem to so many of us. Part of their charm, I guess.

Justin and Blake, I'm finding your conversation fascinating on these points. And Justin, I think you're right on: However, he does serve as a visible, famous spookesperson for liberals, and he is a liberal icon of sorts. He does become a symbol of the movement, a lightning rod, and so it is important how he speaks and about what. Though I was shocked to see he was left off of Forbes's list of Influential Liberals completely!

XJS -- I did answer to the best of my ability above. I wish I had KO's e-mail address. Good luck!
Keep in mind, folks, that Olbermann and Maddow are commentators. They are not hard news.

People on MSNBC like Alex Witt and Contessa Brewer are journalists, and they act like it.

I don't have a problem with commentators being put on as long as people remember what they are there to do. They are there to give their opinions. And opinions are not facts.

I can't stand people who are supposed to be journalists and reporting on things letting their personal biases taint the reporting. For example, I turn away from CNBC from 10-2 and watch Bloomberg instead.

Why? Because Melissa Francis and Dennis Neale taint everything they say with their opinion. You can tell how pissed off the real journalists get at them. I remember Phil LeBeau giving Francis the yap yap yap sign when she went on a rant about the loans to the Big Three.

And that's what she deserved. LeBeau was trying to report the facts and Francis kept on sticking her opinion into it.
Saturn - I used to read you religiously and comment when the spirit moved me, BUT NO LONGER!
I am offended that you dont see the Golf Channel as a basic need. How partisan you are!
This is a great post. I too love MSNBC, though I don't watch it as much as I'd like.
Tony, I agree with you on the need for clear labels. Nicely said.

Tim -- sigh. Golf Channel? Really? I'm willing to make a lot of sacrifices in the name of having better discussions, which keeping you as a reader certainly guarantees, but... I draw the line at golf. A girl must have standards. And these standards must not include men in funny pants swinging ridiculously expensive clubs at tiny little balls on manicured golf courses that could, I think, be better used as, say, free housing tracts for poor Internet writers.

Thanks, newsoldier! Glad to meet a fellow fan.
I've been DVR-ing Keith for a couple of years now. I love his impish sense of humor and the delight he takes with his broadsides at 'Fox Noise' and O'Reilly, et. al. There are times, though, when the guy makes me cringe, especially during the runup to the convention, but also during many of his 'special comments.' That being said, he is a breath of fresh air compared to the fairly stodgy network news shows. His lengthy interviews following most important news stories go into much more depth than just about anybody in the business.

So thanks for the nice tribute to My Hero. Great writing.
I don't believe any apologies or reservations are required. Any network which features the painfully arrogant morons, Matthews and Scarborough, is certainly entitled to the balance of Maddow and Olbermann. Apologies by us liberals should not be considered for any reason during the next eight years !