Via Media Decoder at the New York Times:
Let this incident lay to rest forever the facile, never-true-anyway, bullpucky, lazy conflation of Fox News and what the rest of us do for a living. I know everybody likes to say, “Oh, that’s cable news. It’s all the same. Fox News and MSNBC, mirror images of each other.”
Let this lay that to rest forever. Hosts on Fox raise money on the air for Republican candidates. They endorse them explicitly; they use their Fox News profile to headline fund-raisers. Heck, there are multiple people being paid by Fox News now essentially to run as presidential candidates. If you count not just their hosts but their contributors, you are looking at a significant portion of the whole lineup of Republican presidential contenders for 2012. They can do that because there’s no rule against that at Fox. They run as a political operation. We’re not.
On it’s face, the point is fair enough. Maddow went on to admit that yes, she is a liberal, as is Olbermann, “[but] we are not a political operation. Fox is. We are a news operation.” Presumably that has to do with an allegiance to fact over ideology.
But MSNBC can’t have its cake and eat it too, lusting after Fox News’ bananas ratings and wanting to be the liberal alternative, but then claiming they are nothing more than a news operation when it’s convenient. The deeper institutional problem is the idea that news must be objective and non-political. Yes, there are important differences between the two networks, most notably on the matter of contributors. But Olbermann as O’Reilly makes a lot of sense and despite what he might say, it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise.