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.


Two Must-Watch Videos on Torture @Chrominance

MSNBC had some great work on the torture issue – because there’s no question now that torture is exactly the right word to use for the whole disgusting ball of wax – by both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I’ve collected two video segments for you and if you’ve not already watched them, I highly recommend them.

The first is Keith Olbermann talking to Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski about Abu Ghraib. You might remember her as the woman who was discharged for the torture mess there when it was leaked by members of the military. Her impassioned speech when she talks about what she and others in the military had to suffer – taking the fall for what is now clearly and factually a policy set by the highest levels of the Bush White House – is magnetic. This poor woman suffered a dishonerable fate for having done her duty with honor. How many more are there like her in and out of the military right now?

Next up is Rachel Maddow doing her typical best at breaking down the story in a way that is concise, clear and easily understandable to most every American. And she does it in her typically creative style while never straying from the seriousness of the issue. There is no doubt left that the horrors we saw at Abu Ghraib are the exact same policies that Dick Cheney keeps going on Fox News to defend. Fine if he wants to defend them, as long as we’re all very clear that crimes were committed and Dick Cheney says it’s OK.

I have not to this point seriously believed that prosecutions over the torture policies of the Bush Administration were possible. No reflection on the Obama Administration, but every White House is resistant to prosecuting previous administrations for fear of the same being turned on them. Precedent is a bitch. But as this story unfolds, two things are becoming clear: that the torture policies of the Bush White House were much, much worse than we feared and that this is an issue which is destined to get out of the hands of the Obama Administration – indeed, it may already have. There is a sense of inevitability in the air, of justice that will not be denied. The question is: how high up the ladder to the charges actually end up going, and will that height be adequate to the crimes committed?


Dana Millbank Exits Olbermann Show

Dana Millbank has been a regular contributor to the Countdown with Keith Olbermann show for a number of years.  But after a sadly sloppy bit of reporting that has become fodder for the Republicans, however untrue, Millbank appears to be cracking under the pressure of criticism.  Countdown wanted an explanation for the gaff, not having him on the show till it was corrected, and Millbank decided to go elsewhere.

I’m not too sure how I feel about any of that, it’s just a fact.  It seems a little strong-armed and partisan to demand an explanation from a reporter before allowing him back on the air.  But then, if Fox News can insist on it’s own reality, I think it’s fair for Olbermann to insist on actual reality.  Its good to have a show that insists on some journalistic integrity.

Anyway, just putting it out there for those of you who’ve missed it till now.