Olbermann, Kopel and Journalism: Complete the Thought

I’m certain I did not originally start this website for the purposes of being a commentator on the news media. I’m sure that’s not really my desire even now. Yet I keep coming back to the theme, despite myself, because the media increasing becomes the story.

So, I’m going to keep this one brief, but observe that, in the whole Keith Olbermann / now apparently Joe Scarborough / Ted Koppel dust-up over journalistic objectivity, it strikes me that Keith ultimately has made the most salient point. Or glanced it, anyway. He’s right when he says that Koppel’s bland form of journalism has indeed failed us. He’s right when he says that the rise of his own brand of – well, let’s just call it “journalism,” though I’m not at all sure that’s the right term for it – was inevitable in the wake of that failure. I don’t necessarily think that this is any kind of defense of Olbermann, however.

To me, the slavish insistence on “objectivity,” as in the insistence on not coming to conclusions based on the reporting done, is a cheat. Those of us who watch the news on television or read it online or in print do so because we want to read the news as reported by someone who has some sense of what it means. While the rest of us do our jobs, live with our families and enjoy our hobbies, we don’t often find time to sit down with Senators, Senate staffers, generals, or mayors to discuss the news of the day. We don’t even get the opportunity to sit in a row of uncomfortable chairs and watch said leaders bloviate or dodge questions. And we certainly don’t have the benefit of having done such things for the last several years.

So when the people who actually have done the leg work and the drudge work of reporting the news fail to connect the dots for us – when they fail to complete the thought – we get cheated. When the people with the expertise in both journalism and their specifically-assigned politics choose to censor themselves because they want to be “objective,” the rest of us who are busy doing our own jobs get left in the lurch. No, we do not in fact need your opinion. But we are not so weak-minded that, if we hear the informed opinion of an experienced journalist, we won’t be able to handle it.

And into that chasm will inevitably flow editorials. Then talking heads. Then bloggers such as myself. Because conversation is how humans operate. Because people will always look outside themselves for guidance, inspiration and wisdom. Even to those whom, like myself, don’t really have any more to give them than they had in the first place.