He donated money to three Democratic candidates last week, potentially violating NBC’s rules. Somewhere, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove are giving each other a high five.
This is ridiculous. In an age in which the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech, and corporations have the right to talk as loudly as their bank account allows, to say that an individual should have less political rights than the company he works for is absurd.
It’s less a legal thing and more an ethics thing … Keith isn’t really a journalist (and more a pundit) so it’s weird that he’s under the same kind of rules, but he should’ve been aware that his job makes these sort of contributions a huge no-no.
Sure, it’s not illegal, but these are people he has on his show (in fact, in one case, literally just had on his show), which makes it a huge conflict of interest. This is the same reason there was the flare-up when News Corp. donated huge amounts of money to the Republican Governors’ Association. And why a lot of news orgs told their employees to stay away from last weekend’s rally.
I think if Glenn Beck did the same thing, MSNBC would be in a huge uproar over it. Which is why it’s an issue in the first place.
Me: I am not a member of any political party. This is because during my entire career working as a journalist, I was told that it was unethical for me to do so. I was supposed to be an impartial, nonpartisan being, simply taking information and relaying it on to the readers.
Which is of course impossible, and absurd. Nothing can be reported without being filtered through the knowledge, experiences and prejudices of the reporter. What I’ve come to believe is that this view that journalists should be stenographers is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Wrong because we don’t check our rights as citizens at the door when we become journalists. Dangerous because it propagates this myth that journalists should somehow not be people, with all that implies.
Jim Poniewozik made this case better than I could in a column a couple of years ago called “The Case for Full Disclosure,” in which he notes the perverse effect these journalistic ethics have on media: The most important things to know about a person who is conveying information are the very things journalists are trained not to reveal.
News Corp, like every other news organization in the world, gives money to political parties. Their employees should have that same right. Further, we’re all better off if we know about these things. Especially in this case. Is anyone really surprised that Olbermann favors Democratic politics? The shocker would be if he’d been sending cash to Rand Paul, or Sarah Palin.
Though, honestly, his program gets so much mileage out of them, maybe he should…
I think you make a good case and agree with you that the case for impartiality and objectivity has largely gone too far in today’s climate. (See: Juan Williams.) That said, I think there is a difference in Keith’s case. If Mediaite’s reporting is correct, Keith interviewed Rep. Raul Grijalva, finished his show and immediately sent him a large donation. What if a city hall reporter in some mid-sized Midwestern city did the same thing with the mayor? It would be a huge local scandal.
Now Keith isn’t really a reporter anymore and he shouldn’t be held to the same standard, but you have to admit that his conduct in this situation is awful close for comfort. Keith’s role has largely become that of Democratic cheerleader (though as someone willing to question his side), so perhaps this isn’t as bad as it looks. But the whole motion of it – interview someone, immediately donate to their campaign – still makes me a little queasy.
I’d love to see more transparency in journalism, because readers would benefit from knowing biases and seeing how reporters work through them. I mean, that’s sort of how I approach my blog (and also why I think NPR made a mistake with Williams). But the line, for me at least, is 1) campaign donations and 2) signing petitions. It’s one thing to offer vocal support to a candidate or a cause. It’s another to affect the political process by giving them money.
Definite food for thought on both sides of this situation.