Keith Olbermann has been suspended from MSNBC without pay, effective immediately. The suspension comes in response to a Politico story that reported that the anchor had made three donations to Democratic congressional candidates last week. Political donations apparently violate MSNBC’s ethics policy—although other MSNBC employees, including Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough and commentator Pat Buchanan, have made similar donations in recent years. (Actually, it may be that the NBC rules under which Olbermann was suspended under don’t apply to MSNBCers.)
This situation brings up several interesting issues of journalistic ethics. Like former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie, Olbermann says that journalists shouldn’t vote. Still, his progressive affinities are well known and actually the bedrock of his show. So what’s the point of a donation ban? If Olbermann donates to Democrats, will conservatives realize he’s a liberal? This is just as silly as NPR forbidding its employees to go to the “Rally for Sanity.”
Media outlets should give up this insane act in which they pretend that their reporters are robots without biases. Everyone knows that’s not true! People have lots of biases. Look, this is incredibly simple. Reporters and journalists and media figures should be judged on one thing and one thing only: whether what they say and report turns out to be true. Why do people not get that? If we had a media culture where people were hired and fired based on their record of truth-telling (or not), the world would be a much better place.