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NBC news unstable as “objective” network news attempts fusion with opinion-based MSNBC 6/15/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in NBC.

More evidence that the decades-old model in which news outlets purport to be objective is in collapse. Perhaps no news outlet is feeling the strain greater these days than NBC. The network’s election coverage is largely handled by its cable division MSNBC, pairing at times the highly restrained, faux-objective Brian Williams on the broadcast side with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, a man who in his commentaries has told President Bush to “shut the hell up” and has posed the question, “Pathological Presidential Liar or an Idiot-in-Chief?”

As the New Yorker points out, this would seem to risk the reputation of the NBC News brand as a trusted source for all viewers, something that has not been lost on Williams’ predecessor, Tom Brokaw. “It’s not perfectly sorted out,” he admits. It is “in the news media ‘the second big bang’. We are creating a new universe…you’ve got planets out there colliding with each other, new life forms taking shape…we don’t know how it’s all going to settle down.”

I do not presume to know how this will sort out either, although I do believe we will end-up with a number of full-service news outlets unashamedly mixing fact and opinion, and catering to different worldviews. This will be a healthy development, in my opinion, that has worked well among London’s newspapers for many years. But in the meantime, if NBC wants to be the most trusted name in news, is it too much to ask them to place an ideological label on Keith Olbermann and pair him with an anti-Olbermann during joint NBC-MSNBC coverage? Apparently, it is.


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