Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Say It Ain’t So Keith

Everybody knows the story about Shoeless Joe Jackson.  When the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” star  Joe Jackson emerged from the courtroom after admitting his guilt for taking money to throw the 1919 World Series, a boy implored his hero to uphold the integrity of the game by asking, “say it ain’t so Joe.”  A newspaper account  reports that  a shame filled Shoeless Joe admitted his guilt to the crestfallen young fan before walking away through a raucous crowd.  The next day, Commissioner Kenesaw  Mountain Landis kicked Shoeless Joe out of the game and forever banned his name from inclusion in the Hall of Fame.  Such are the wages for the actions of unscrupulous cheaters.

On learning the news about Keith Olbermann’s  suspension from MSNBC I feel like that young adoring fan.  I refuse to believe that my favorite news commentator would violate the sacred tenant of a free press and compromise his integrity by making financial contributions to candidates running for public office.

The reported amounts of dollars Olbermann reportedly contributed to 3 democratic congressional candidates is minuscule.   Citizens are limited to a contribution ceiling of $2,400 per candidate and Olbermann allegedly hit that limit in support of two candidates from Arizona and one in Kentucky.

Its hard to believe that Olbermann would compromise his integrity for such a paltry sum.  If these allegations are true, the greater irony is that  as a result of his ill considered action, the priceless value of Olbermann’s nightly critique of reactionary republicanism is now jeopardized.  The risk of losing a vital and robust voice of progressive politics on a major cable channel is a real possibility.  This one really hurts.

Some have offered a defense for Olbermann by pointing to Fox News extreme partisanship and financial support of Republican candidates.  Rupert Murdock reportedly made a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association and point to Glenn Beck’s Tea Party activism or the use of GOP leaders like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin as paid political commentators.  This argument misses the point about Olbermann’s trespass.  Like the Juan William’s dust-up after his termination from NPR, Olbermann’s transgressions falls into the same category.  Olbermann violated a term of his employment that prohibits news reporters from making contributions to political candidates.  In my mind that’s a fair rule if a network wants to maintain a semblance of objectivity.  We expect news professionals of Mr. Olbermannn’s stature to uphold a level of integrity that protects the sacred mission of the free press in a free society.  Edward R. Murrow would expect nothing less.  Olbermann’s violation of the rule prohibiting contributions to political candidates goes to the heart of a compromised free press.  With no transparency or disclosure, Olbermann’s actions has demeaned the MSNBC brand by compromising its ability to present the news without fear of favor. There is no equivocation or quid pro qou when it comes to upholding the standards of excellence for ethical behavior.

We know where Fox News stands in its political deposition.  We also know the space that MSNBC tries to occupy.  Fox’s shameless partisianship is not the issue.  Fox’s corporate rules of behavior and standards of ethics for employees is not the issue.  The issue is MSNBC’s standards of ethics for its employees and how they enforce those standards when they are broken.  If Mr. Olbermann violated that ethical standard he should in all good conscience resign from MSNBC.

Please, say it ain’t so Keith.  Please.

You Tube Music Video: Ludwig Von Beethoven: 9th Symphony, 2nd Movement

Risk: free press, ethics, disclosure, transparency

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November 7, 2010 - Posted by | ethics, media | , , , , , , , , ,

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