TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: On MSNBC, the N isn’t for ‘news’

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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At any given time on any given day, MSNBC’s hosts may be heard screeching about how the Fox News Channel is not a real news organization.

“Fox News Channel … is a very successful full employment program for Republican political candidates, their owner and patrons, as well as a couple of journalists named Shep Smith and Greta Van Susteren,” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow opined last Thursday, while relishing the phone hacking scandal engulfing one of News Corp’s British properties.

The previous day, Maddow called Fox News the “dominant media voice of the Republican Party and conservative politics.”

“I don’t think there’s equivalency between Fox and MSNBC,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin told Forbes magazine in June. “I don’t think we’re nearly as based in ideology the way they are … I don’t always think they base [their coverage] in fact.”

But try to find news on MSNBC. I dare you.

Fox News’s opinion shows slant right — there’s no question about it, and Fox doesn’t deny it. But throughout the day and into the evening, Fox airs hours of straight news coverage. Jon Stewart, one of Fox News’s harshest critics, has even praised some of the networks straight news programs and anchors.

If you come home from work in the afternoon or evening looking for a straight newscast, you aren’t going to find one on MSNBC. Starting at the very least at 3:00 p.m. with host Martin Bashir, MSNBC is entirely devoted to liberal opinion and commentary broadcasting. (GOP congressman to Chris Matthews: You bully guests)

Even if you argue that Bashir offers straight news — which is a hard argument to make if you actually watch the show — there is no arguing that from 4:00 p.m. forward, MSNBC offers no straight newscast whatsoever. (And Ezra Klein, the Washington Post’s liberal blogger, is Bashir’s most recent fill-in host.)

MSNBC did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request to clarify which broadcast hours it considers “straight news.”

During that same 3:00–11:00 p.m. time period, Fox has the hour-long straight news broadcasts “Studio B with Shepard Smith” at 3:00 p.m., “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6:00 p.m. and “Fox Report with Shepard Smith” at 7:00 p.m. There is nothing even remotely close on MSNBC, where moral indignation over Fox News — and envy over its ratings— conspicuously pervades. (Politico reporter who covered Palin quits for Democratic Party job)

The issue isn’t the errors and omissions in each network’s news coverage. It isn’t a debate over whether MSNBC or Fox emphasizes different stories more to suit an ideological agenda. The point is that MSNBC, unlike Fox, isn’t even in the news game in the late afternoon and evening, when most people watch the news.

It would be irresponsible to talk about MSNBC’s role as a serious news operation without acknowledging the likelihood, according to the New York Times, that the Reverend Al Sharpton will soon be among the network’s regular prime-time hosts, replacing Cenk Uygur in the 6:00 p.m. time slot. He’s already a frequent fill-in.

Al Sharpton is a phenomenal choice for entertainment value. Few in public life are as entertaining as the reverend. But for a network that incessantly trumpets its news gravitas in comparison with Fox, you might call it a questionable choice. To the best of my knowledge, Fox has never hired anyone with baggage nearly as heavy as Sharpton’s.

An ancient philosopher once offered the sage advice that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The advice is doubly true for those who don’t even have a glass abode to provide a modicum of protection.

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