Monday, November 8, 2010

Is MSNBC's Policy Correct?

Recently, Keith Olbermann, who has his own show on MSNBC, was suspended indefinitely without pay when it was revealed he contributed more than $7,000 to three different political candidates without MSNBC approval. MSNBC claimed this was an outright violation of its policy which states:
"Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee."

Although Olbermann is scheduled to return Tuesday, making it a very short suspension, many claim it was unwarranted and violated his civil rights to make campaign contributions to any candidate of his choosing. Olbermann argued that while he did contribute to these campaigns he never once solicited on air for anyone to give to the candidates. Many think MSNBC was holding itself to a higher standard than FOX News who not only has on-air talent who has contributed to campaigns but has itself, as an organization, contributed directly to republican activist groups.

One thing blurring the line is that many claim the talking heads on the night-time shows are commentators and pundits rather than actual journalists and shouldn't be held to higher journalistic standards. Here's a few articles on the subject. Read them and then give me your opinion.


Megan said...

Keith Olbermann violated one of the rules of his employer. He should have had to suffer the consequences of his actions. I believe that NBC did the right thing by suspending Olbermann because of his violation. Although, I may not agree with NBC's rule, people that break the rules have to suffer the consequences. Mr. Olbermann knew the rules, but chose to ignore them. Therefore; he suffered the repercussions of his actions. Bravo NBC!!!

Paula said...

When one is hired for employment for any type of job, they have to go through orientation during which time the employer goes over policy and procedures. This was clearly stated that no employee should participate in campaigns or give donations,etc. Although Mr. Olbermann wasn't soliciting there was MSNBC's policy in place that he was aware of and so he has to dance to their music so to speak. He broke the policy and therefore he had to give an account of his actions. Rules are made to be governed by, not to be broken. MSNBC had the right to suspend him.

It would be different if Mr. Olbermann didn't know about the policy but he did and chose to ignore it.

Paula G.

Rob said...

Since I am forced to write about Olbermann, I must start by stating my dislike for him as a reporter. In fact, Olbermann is not a reporter at all, and should not be talked about in that manner - he is a liberal activist (on top of being a rude jerk). If Fox is right leaning, NBC has tipped the scale to the left. Maddow has somehow missed this fact when mentioning Fox in her comments.

Having said that, I believe that it is ridiculous that NBC suspended Olbermann. Sure this was a violation of company policy, but NBC employs Olbermann to support liberal ideas, not to report the news. It is always funny to me how political conversations often end up in someone saying... "but Fox does this"; or "Bush did this". If anyone needs to take the focus off the topic at hand and compare the situation with something or someone else; you can almost be assured that that person is "guilty as charged". As seen with Olbermann’s current low ratings, NBC will either become a legitimate news source by removing extremist personalities or continue to be ignored by many potential viewers.


Taylor Lang said...

The bottom line here is that NBC has strict rules and regulations for their reporters, and Keith Olbermann had broken one of those rules. If anything, suspending Olbermann was not done with the intention of this being a punishment because he broke the rules, but rather to publicize the fact that NBC holds itself to a higher, more ethical standard than other news corporations. Producers and executives from NBC knew that this would be a highly publicized suspension, and would create a chance for NBC to further build their brand equity.

Rachel Maddow made some good points when defending Keith Olbermann when she stated, “Hosts on Fox News raise money for Republican candidates. They endorse them explicitly, they use their Fox News profile to headline fundraisers.” This is true, and apparently Fox News supports their “talking heads” to donate money to the candidates of their choices. However, NBC does not and suspending Olbermann was a great way to highlight the fact that they do not subject themselves to the unethical standards that other networks do.

Cperkins said...

I agree with MSNBC only because they have specific guidelines for their employees.

However, I do feel as though they should take a second look at these people. They are not journalist in the pure form. They are commentaries. If you watch a sporting event, there is very few times that they are impartial to one team over another. This is the same in the arean of political television. A person should not have to hide their beliefs because of a fear of repercussions.

That is what is wrong with America. We are scared to believe in what we want to believe in because it may not be looked upon favorably. That's on both sides, Democrat and Republican.

I personally love to have educated debates (notice the words "educated" and "debates", not arguments) with Democrats where we each respect each others beliefs and can part as friends. However, very few people are able to have these type discussions without someone taking what is said personally.

jessimpson said...

Just as Juan Williams was fired from NPR, the suspesion of Keith Olbermann was a knee-jerk reaction against him. Thus, it was highly the incorrect reaction in my opinion. If NBC had thought for a moment, they probably would not have so harshly punished him. Olbermann is a man before he is a reporter, and he has opinions just as everyone else does. Why do we hold him to a higher standard when we do not to other professionals? I believe just as our readings have said that it is impossible for one's beliefs to not come out in reporting. I do not hold it against anyone if they are liberal or conservative. I just wish we could all get along better. Professional journalism is almost impossible to accomplish. In my opinion, most reporters are doing fairly well to continue to be professional. The "talking heads" are intense at times, but they are human and want to make light their opinions just as we do. Change the channel if you are offended. That is your right as an American. Olbermann in no way was making light of who he was pulling for in the election on the air. Leave him alone, NBC. He makes you money!

What bothers me the most about this situation is the finger-pointing at Fox News. Has anyone thought of the fact that Fox is the ONLY Conservative news channel? According to our literature and many others, MOST of the news is liberal. Why pick on the ONLY Conservative news channel alive? Conservatives have to have their news also. I imagine they get sick of watching the liberal news channels. Of course, the finger will be pointed at the one who is DIFFERENT. Please leave Fox News out of it, people. They apparently do not have the same policy as NBC. Do not scream at them for this.
Jessica Simpson

jessimpson said...

I do realize that Olbermann actually contributed money to some candidates. I forgot to include this. I still feel he has this right and should not be punished just because he is a reporter.

emdaco said...

I am a little torn on this one, in that Keith did nothing wrong, nor did he push what he did onto others. On the other hand if an employer has a written contract with their employees you must obey or decline the position. It is tough to say how far can an employer control your personal lifestyle or actions and as to what standards they should be held up to. I have seen the fox network make large donations and do little to hide it, even inviting guess on and allowing them to plug in websites you can donate to them at, Keith brought none of his actions to work with him. Nor did he advertise specific websites to donate to. I feel in the least insulting way and with respect that Keith is more of a commentator and should not be held to the same standards as a journalist, who must remain unbasis.

Emily Conroy

Melissa Laster said...

Olberman clearly violated his contract. I believe that if he signed his contract knowing the rules he should be punished. I don't think that he should be let off easy. Another thing that I think NBC did wrong was saying that they did this to prove that they are better than other stations by punishing their anchors for disobeying contracts. I think that Olbermann should have been punished. However, I think that he should have been punished longer.

LHipp said...

Any trained journalist knows that his/her organization has a prohibition against giving political donations. It’s common sense. Any newspaper/TV news company does not want journalists to participate in political activities. It’s not a violation of any rights – it’s just what you accept when you take a job. Some journalists even take the stance that they won’t vote because that would be expressing an opinion.

That said, it is a little extreme to call Olbermann a journalist. He’s a sports reporter who somehow has transitioned into a Democratic pundit. I still don’t understand how that happened. The nightly shows on MSNBC have a slant and there’s no use in pretending its real journalism. They are the mirror image of Fox. And you can’t begin to equate him with Tom Brokaw or Brian Williams and apply the same rules of objectivity. Perhaps NBC should revisit its rules and allow partisans to donate but not the news side.

Brandon said...

Ok I have conflicting views on this topic. To begin with, I have no problem with a journalist that I watch giving money to a candidate or party. It is their prerogative and as long as they are not openly trying to force me to change or alter my vote. I think that as long as they realize that they are to be impartial then they can give what they want in my opinion.

On the other hand there are rules set forth by NBC and he was aware of those rules. It is fine if he does not like those rules, but when he signed a contract with NBC News then he agreed to abide by those rules. I think that the network was completely justified in suspending Olbermann. Now I do think that they may want to look into their policy, but as far as this matter is concerned, he violated a rule and the network took appropriate measures.

Daniel said...

I understand completely that MSNBC has rules, and they expect their employees to abide by those rules. However, I beleive that as long as an employee does not overtly illustrate bias on their said program, then there is no reason to take action against that employee. I really do not care for Keith Olberman as a journalist, but I feel that he has the right to support whomever he chooses whenever he chooses.

Daniel Ray

David said...

First, I am not a fan of Keith Olbermann and need to disclose this prior to stating a hopefully unbiased opinion but nonetheless, it is needed. Keith violated rules that his employer has put before him. It is important and the organzation is attempting to monitor any potential risks to its business model. In my opinion, the suspension is too short.

In the financial industry, every dollar donated must be accounted for, every board seat (paid or unpaid) must be disclosed, and both (amongst others) must have prior approval. Failure results in severe fines and potential industry expulsion. If the network wants to set itself apart, try outperforming the financial industry requirements. Of course, how could they throw stones from their glass house?

Mr. Olbermann, I hope you enjoy eating crow and hopefully realize you are an elitist but there are still those who can keep you in line, mainly those who write your absurdly large paycheck.

David dlt174

bkp36 said...

I feel it is a conflict in interest, however, if policy allows after discussing it with the proper channels then so be it. Olbermann should have followed the rules. I feel NBC has this policy in place to protect the network. I would call it a "watch dog" program. You can make donations if you choose but be very careful with your show as to not to lose focus of your responsibility of non-bias journalism.

I appreciate NBC taking a stand. I'm glad they attempt to have some form of ethics.


Anonymous said...

From what I have experienced, every time I have accepted a new job, I go through orientation and the rules and regulation are given to me then. I may be asked to sign a form saying I understand these rules; therefore, if I were to violate one of these rules, my boss could easily show me the sheet of where I signed saying I would not violate any of the rules.

Keith Olbermann violated one of the rules, and he should pay for it. Just like anyone else would have to, he should suffer the consequences as well. He's not my favorite reporter anyway, so I would be fine seeing him punished for his wrongdoings. Suspending him was the right thing to do because NBC clearly states in their rules that one cannot give money to candidates. Olbermann was wrong; NBC noticed it, and did something about it.


lhw55 said...

I believe that NBC was justified in its decision to suspend Keith Olbermann. Simply the fact that he violated the terms of his employment is enough to justify NBC's decision. When he singed on as an employee he knew the contract that he singed and he knew the ralmifications of what his actions would be.
I believe that this cuts to a deeper issue. Our journalist should be BIPARTISAN and not serve to one parties interest. With this not being the case in Keith's actions then there is no way that the viewer is getting a non biased version of the news leaving the reliability and crediblity of NBC at jepordy in the public eye.

Yureka Lawrence said...

I believe that in any situation it is always best to stick to the facts first. Did Keith Olbermann violate the rules and regulations of MSNBC? The answer is without a doubt yes he did. The rules clearly stated that should be no contributions to any political organization without prior Approval. Basically he acted upon himself and did whatever he wanted to do.
If people feel that NBC should revisit this company rule that is okay to but as of right now Olbermann violated a rule that was already in place and if you didnt want to abide by the rules, you shouldnt have the job. He will have to roll with the consequences given to him.

jerodine said...

Keith Olberman violated the rules of his employer. I believed that if he signed that contract he should be punished. I believed that NBC did the right thing by suspending Olberman because of the violation.

People that do wrong should have have to suffer the consequences like anybody else by ignoring the matter make things worse.


Nick said...

I completely agree with MSNBC’s stance on suspending Olbermann. However, their suspension seemed to be pretty lame when everything was all said and done. So he was suspended for all of 2 days? MSNBC seemed to want to set the right example and prove they were better than FOX News, but when push came to shove and they realized their ratings were going to suffer without KO, then they thought a little harder about their values as a news organization. Seemed to me like money trumped journalistic values.

The most ironic part to me is how Olbermann sits on his soap box from high above the mountain top and reigns down on FOX News for their contributions to political advancements saying that there isn’t a place for political contributions in journalism. It’s hard to take any of these types of “journalists” seriously. Whether it be Olbermann, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Combs, or any one in between, it seems that the everything they say has a slant to achieve their organizations’ agenda.

Nick Abernathy

Beth ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth ann said...

I think all this is a joke. Anytime you set a watch any of these type reporters you should know they are always going to slant their reporting toward their own beliefs or the political viewpoints of the network. When watching Fox you are going to get the conservative side of political issues. The same is true when you watch NBC, they will lean more to the liberal side of political issues. I really do not see what the big deal is in this situation.
Fox network makes no bones about contributing to conservative political candidates. I think most viewers of Fox would expect the network to support conservative issues. There is no doubt NBC is a liberal television network and their commentators are for the most part liberal. Olbermann political viewpoints are right in line with the beliefs of the network. There has to be a reason to punishment him for his contributions.
NBC was in my opinion using this situation to take a shot at Fox. They were trying to send the message that Fox openly contributes to political candidates how shares the network beliefs and NBC is a true news network and its does not try and influence individual who share their same political beliefs. If this was NBC true position on this issue they would have not reinstated Olbermann only after a few days suspension. This is another case of how news network try to deceive the public.
Elizabeth Ann Wade

john ray said...

If it was a company policy, then that policy and punishment should be upheld. However, if Olbermann wants to donate money to a cause then it should not be a concern of NBC as long as it is legal and does not effect work.

As long as Obermann is doing his job without bias, his political beliefs or support should not be an issue.

Hunter Boerner said...

I agree with many of my classmates that Mr. Olbermann should have to suffer the consequences because he did not follow the rules. One of the greatest things about being an American is that we do get to choose our occupation and employer. Mr. Olbermann chose to work for this news station so he should follow the rules. Other employers reap consequences for their actions in other jobs and occupations and so should he.

I don't necessarily agree with the rule though. I don't think they should put the blame on Fox news either because they are a totally different news station and have the right to have the rules they please. Overall though, I do think individuals should have the ability to contribute to support others politically as long as it doesn't hurt someone else.

hallen said...

When I first read the news about Olbermann, I was furious. How could a journalist justify contributing to a political party. But, then I really thought about it for a minute, and realized that anyone could already see who / what olbermann stood for. It's not like it was a big secret. NBC is correct, in that, he was not soliciting contributions in any way, and has not really violated any rules. If anyone is surprised that Olbermann is liberal as all get out... I have some beach front property in Arizona to sell you.

So, that begs the question of should he be allowed to contribute to the democratic party? Why not? Shouldn't he be treated like any other American who would be able to support the political party of their choice? I think it's ok for him to do so.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not Keith Olbermann is consider a "Talking Head" by some, the rules are the rules. He knew that was a rule by his employer yet he knowingly disobeyed it. He deserved punishment. I feel this way because having worked at a newspaper, I had to promise not to have yard signs or political bumper stickers and I just wrote high school sports articles. The paper's advertisement consultant was held to the same standards as well, and she did not write anything for the paper.
Also, I think NBC was trying to make a point in regards to FOX. They wanted to make a point, that NBC will not advocate supporting candidate from reporters or even "talking heads."

JOHN B said...

Keith Olberman violated a policy established by his employer. As such, his employer was justified in taking action. We all have rules we must abide by. Some of them relate to our employment, others relate to the law, and others relate to home, family, and community. If we are dissatisfied with any of these rules, we have avenues available to try to change them. If Mr. Olberman disagreed with MSNBC’s rules regarding political contributions, he should have petitioned his employers to change the rule rather than to blatantly disregard it. If his request was denied, he had legal channels available to him.

I do not personally agree with MSNBC’s rule. However, I must defend their right to make rules and policies for their employees. If the rule violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, Mr. Olberman had the opportunity to challenge that rule. Our rights are protected through legal challenges.

Jeremy D. said...

It is my opinion that MSNBC was in the right when they suspended reporter Keith Olbermann. It clearly states in the MSNBC policy that behavior such as this without prior approval of the network will not be tolerated. Even though Olbermann did not publicly endorse any particular party, he did however break the rules. MSNBC did not severely punish him though, seeing as though his suspension was really short.

I have heard a lot of negative publicity concerning FOX News as of late. Rumors that their anchors publicly endorse the political party of their choice and do not remain professional, is just an example. It is my opinion that MSNBC is just trying to distance themselves, as a network, from this type of bad publicity. It appears to be working because I have yet to hear anything negative about MSNBC.

clp said...

A rule is a rule. If you break the rules, you risk getting caught and getting punished. I don’t care what a person’s political views are, but he or she should not think that they are above the rules of his or her employer. Many places of employment do not allow visible tattoos. Does that mean I don’t have the right to go get a tattoo on my face? No, it means I risk losing my job if my employer has a rule against visible tattoos. Keith Olbermann should have been suspended and should be thankful he did not get fired. Adults should always set an example of taking responsibilities for their actions. Public outrage over his suspension disgusts me, because the implication is that he is above the rules.

Journalist should not contribute to political parties or politicians. I tie a reporter’s credibility with his or her objectiveness. Bias has no place in real news. I applaud NBC for their policy and wish more news network would enact such policy. I understand that commentators and pundits are little more than entertainers, but he is held to the standard of his employer. I would be proud to work for an organization that has higher standards and sorrowful that my actions fell short. If Keith Olbermann doesn’t like the rule, he should go work elsewhere…like Fox.

Codi Phillips

drm198 said...

I believe that Keith Olberman did violate the rules of his employer and should have faced a longer suspension or even termination. I believe that the fact that Keith Olberman is a high ranking journalist with NBC is what saved his job. Clearly he knew what NBC's policy was and he made the decision to violate it. As such he should have faced stiffer consequences for his actions.

Don Maher

Renita Moore said...

When you enter an employment agreement with your employer, you must abide by their policy. MSNBS had the right to carry out their policy. There is no middle ground in this situation because the rules were layed out in the beginning.