Edward R. Murrow would be ashamed

At least once a day some reader passes on a link to a Keith Olbermann commentary about George W. Bush.

Olbermann hosts Countdown on MSNBC, a fast-paced hour that is part news, part tabloid, part Entertainment Tonight and a lot of his outsized ego.

This isn’t Oldermann’s first venture into broadcast “news.” A former sportscaster for ESPN and pitchman for Boston Chicken, he tried anchoring a so-called news show (also with MSNBC) during the Clinton years, hosting a nightly talkfest focusing on the Monica Lewinsky debacle, then quit, declared news “out of touch with reality” and returned to sports, joining Fox.

Now he’s back, this time targeting the many failings of the Bush Administration along with almost nightly jabs at ex-employer Fox and ratings rival Bill O’Reilly while delivering nauseating doses of tabloid trash about Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, American Idol, et. al.

However, the most buzz is generated by his commentaries – long rambling tirades against the foibles of the current administration, accentuated with carefully-edited video and enough hyperbole to bring a smile to any carnival barker’s face.

Olbermann is entertaining and his commentaries are sometimes spot on in pointing out Bush’s many shortcomings but he is, for the most part, a caricature of Howard Beale, the “mad prophet of the airwaves” in the move Network and his show proves that movie’s premise that news is more entertainment than substance and more hype than reality.

Countdown features what Olbermann’s producers rank as the top five stories of the day. In reality, only two or on rare occasions three of the stories might qualify as news. The rest are most Entertainment tabloid trash – Britney Spears sightings, Paris Hilton’s latest antics or a nauseating equation of American Idol to substance.

Intertwined is “Oddball,” a collage of humorous video (mostly from foreign countries), top newsmakers (lifted from the wire services) and “Worst Person in the World,” a spot normally reserved for Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News buffoon who, despite sagging ratings, still ranks number one in the cable news time slot that Olbermann hopes, someday, to own.

Liberals flock to Olbermann because he is an unabashed purveyor of propaganda slanted to the left – just as the rabid right wingers follow Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly because they pander to conservative viewpoints.

But Olbermann is no less bombastic or any less slanted than his rivals. He just represents the other side. He is an unabashed liberal who wears his bias on the sleeves of his custom tailored suits and bias – whether right or left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat – is still bias.

Liberals claim the vast wasteland of cable TV news needs Olbermann because he counterbalances the right-wing domination of the market by Fox. When Fox News went on the air, conservatives said the same thing, claiming they needed a right-wing voice to counterbalance what they saw as liberal control of the news.

When bias becomes the central focus of any news organization, truth loses out. Truth cannot co-exist with bias and the public is never served by any operation that delivers news from a singular, pre-determined point of view.

It is not a coincidence that Olbermann came out of the sports broadcasting world. Sports is an ideal breeding ground for the kind of hucksterism that political demagogues like Obermann and Limbaugh practice (Limbaugh was once a baseball announcer). Politics, like sports, is more about hype than substance and putting a sports announcer into the political host chair to call the play-by-play is a natural fit.

Sadly, what the Olbermanns, O’Reillys, Limbaughs and others of their ilk spoon feed a gullible American public is not news or even solid information. It is partisan pap, spiked with hyperbole and laced with entertainment-enhanced glitz.

Olbermann ends each “newscast” with “Good night and good luck,” a salutation “borrowed,” word-for-word, from the late, great newsman Edward R. Murrow.

Murrow, like the news that both cable TV and broadcast networks on both sides of the political spectrum so cheapens with their theatrics, deserves better.

Comments

  1. Wayne K Dolik

    Pitchman for “chicken” …jeeze every-one needs a start. Doug, remember yours?

    Today is national fried chicken day. Why is it entertainment shows seem to tell the real truth in America these days? I muted “Fox Noise” on my TV long ago. Oh, I am sorry for their sponsors. I like fried chicken. Did I tell you that?

    What is bias?

    I think we all have bias. It’s a uniform untruth in this Country.

    I think people need to speak truth to power. Don’t you? So you don’t like K.O. to bad imho.

    More folks need to speak truth to power. I like K. O.

  2. pondering_it_all_again

    Attack the messenger if you can’t refute the message?

    I saw Olbermann’s Special Commentary, and I did not hear anything in there that I considered sensationalist or misleading. By clearly labelling it a commentary, it was identified as a opinion piece. There were plenty of opinions in there, but it was also clear that those opinions were based on verifiable facts.

    Just as a handy reference: When you find yourself writing about the style or resume of another writer, instead of the actual content of his or her piece, then you need to stop and think for a while before you make a fool of yourself.

  3. surgethis

    RUN OUT OF TOPICS?

    You have got to be kidding me. In light of the massive criminal enterprise operating out of our White House you come up with a total hit piece on Olberman basically because he uses Murrow’s “Good Night and Good Luck”.

    Tell me who else in the state run media comes even close. But that’s all beside the point. George Bush just commuted the sentence of the guy who is covering up for the crimes of himself and Dick Cheney.

    Not just small crimes either. Crimes that involve lies that led us to invade and destroy another country. Hundreds of thousands are dead and thousands upon thousands of lives destroyed. Crimes like treason.

    You are off base as usual Doug. Talking about the “far” left. What does that mean? Are you talking about people who speak out about treason? What standard are you living up to?

    Why don’t you go off on the Clinton’s or Al Gore or John Edwards hair cuts while you are at it? Your rant here was a waist of time and frankly I’m sick of your emotional weirdness.

  4. kent shaw

    “I’m a reader and Imus is too and has great book reviews when he has the authors on his show.”

    Me too. I overlook all of the rest of Imus’s nonsense because of the excellent book reviews and the serious interviews of not just authors but others, too. I hope he comes back to WFAN at least.

  5. Sandra Price

    Kent. I’m thrilled to hear Imus may be back. I can click on WFAN and stream it into my computer and hear him if and when he returns. My TV cable goes out and I used to pick his show up on the ‘net. I’m a reader and Imus is too and has great book reviews when he has the authors on his show. I don’t have to see him; he never changes.

    Boots! we love Doug’s Rants and don’t need insults here. We don’t have to agree and he doesn’t expect us to. This is a team here, my friend. We thrive on open dialog.