Suspended For Civic Engagment?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A top story in the headlines is the suspension and reinstatement of MSNBC host Kieth Olbermann for giving monetary donations to Democratic political candidates.

Now the question is, is it against journalistic ethics for a journalist to support one political candidate over the other?

MSNBC is a clearly left-leaning institution, though as a whole it claims to remain mainly unbiased. Kieth Olbermann is also clearly a supporter of the Democratic party.

However, Olbermann is also a journalist--and a popular one at that. Thousands of people tune into his commentaries on issues or current political proceedings.

Anyone that watches his show can clearly see that Olbermann is a Democrat supporter, so his monetary gifts shouldn't have been much of a surprise to any audience member. Therefore, is it fair that he was suspended for this act?

Some people are commenting that Olbermann should have been completely honest about giving money to the candidates from the start; but, are private citizens rightfully expected to show where their money is going?

The issue is not about whether or not Olbermann should support one candidate over another as a journalist. The issue is about whether or not a citizen in the public eye should be 1.) expected to engage in civic duties, and 2.) expected to disclose all political leanings to the public.

This can all go back to my previous blog about biases--if a person has a particular bias, he or she will present information through that bias.

Olbermann has a bias, and though he hadn't come out and said that he supported the Democratic party, his bias was still clear to the audience. The audience is able to take the information with the understanding that the information they were receiving from Olbermann came through that bias.

It shouldn't be necessary for a person like Olbermann, who is working for a clearly left-leaning company and presenting clearly left-leaning opinions, to publicly disclose his or her positions of civic involvement.

Everyone knows his bias, and every engaged citizen should be able to take information from him as it is through that bias without Olbermann needing to feed it to them.


taramaurer November 8, 2010 at 8:59 PM  

I don't think Olbermann shouldn't have been suspended for his monetary gift to Democratic political candidates. I understand that it is MSNBC's policy, but I think that they should change it. As we said in class, hosts from other news networks are able to donate. Why should Olbermann? It would be different, like you said, if Olbermann and MSNBC were completely unbiased. However, that isn't the case.

Victoria Jones November 9, 2010 at 7:03 AM  

The company's policy about not giving donations is kind of absurd since MSNBC is clearly a democratic network.

This also surprised me because what Olbermann talks about during his air time is very clearly biased towards the democratic view.

Olbermann should have just respected the policy for the time being. Instead of going ahead and breaking it he could have tried and got it removed or something along those lines.

I remember Brian saying how an editor quit voting the day he became editor because he didn't want to sway one way or the other.

How much should journalists be expected to give up?

Jesse A Stewart November 10, 2010 at 5:54 AM  

I don't think Olbermann should have been suspended. So what if he wants to donate do Democrats, its his right. The only thing that he does by this is he tells people exactly that he is a democrat. MSNBC is biased toward his view anyway so why should it matter?

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