Word comes that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews will be removed from their anchor positions at MSNBC. David Gregory will assume the duties for the balance of the presidential race.
It is one thing to pursue a niche audience, to engage ideologically extreme and obnoxious commentators and to unabashedly declare your top-rated shows to be “balance-free.” But placing obvious, avowed partisans in the role of “anchors” with the patina of objectivity and sobriety was a stain on the reputation of NBC. And let’s be frank — the NBC and MSNBC brands are intertwined.
Moreover, it was dumb in the long run for a news organization seeking to compete with less ideologically-tainted outlets. Really, what access and what cooperation do you think the McCain camp has been affording them?
The Left has compared MSNBC to Fox, but the analogy has always fallen on exactly this point: Fox separated talk-show partisans (e.g. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly) from news anchors and reporters ( e.g. Brit Hume, Chris Wallace) while MSNBC did not. This move is a small but essential corrective step.
From the outside one can easily ask, “What took so long?” But the temptation to give into bullies and to seek some small ratings/monetary advantage is great. It is no easy thing to say “enough” and somebody –or somebodies — at MSNBC/NBC did just that. But whether this is part of a greater course correction, one that will be reflected in more than a shuffling of the anchor chairs on the deck of the MSM Titanic remains to be seen.