Journalists vs. Pundits

I disagree with about 90% of what Meghan McCain believes in, but in general I think she’s a likable girl. I think part of that is because in the back of my head, I think she’s really a closeted liberal just waiting for the light bulb to go on so she can come out of the conservative closet. Today she’s pretty far off base, though.

Today on the Daily Beast she’s commenting on Keith Olbermann’s temporary suspension from MSNBC for making campaign donations. Her point there is that he shouldn’t have been suspended, because she doesn’t think he’s a journalist.

Olbermann needs to determine if he is a commentator or a journalist. It never really crossed my mind that he was considered a journalist by anyone, just like I never assumed that anyone considers Glenn Beck a journalist. And, for the record, neither does he. Both Beck and Bill O’Reilly (as recently as his appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher) said they fall on the commentary side of the network. This is the state of the media.

I’d like to call bullshit on this one. It is indeed true that Beck and O’Reilly ARE actually “commentators” or rather pundits, and that they are not journalists. Journalists tend to have a much better relationship with the facts than either of these guys. The professional goal for journalists is to uncover the truth – Beck and O’Reilly, on the other hand, are interested in pushing their point of view and have only a vague notion of what the truth might be, because they aren’t really interested in it.

But 90% of the viewing public doesn’t realize that Beck and O’Reilly are pundits rather than journalists. Most of them think that what they see on Fux “News” is actually news, provided to them by actual journalists. They don’t make any sort of distinction between journalists and “commentators.” In fact, that’s exactly what Beck and O’Reilly are counting on – that their “commentary” be mistaken for real, investigated, researched journalism.

So that line of “I never assumed that anyone considers Glenn Beck a journalist” is all kinds of bull. The vast majority of the viewing audience considers that to be so, Meghan, because they don’t know any better. And I’ll bet Beck and O’Reilly aren’t going to be thrilled that you’re musing about those sorts of distinctions publicly.

So Olbermann – journalist or pundit? Journalist, in my view. He sure does have an opinion, but it’s always in service to uncovering the truth. When he’s wrong, he corrects himself. He reports actual, factual news.

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