Talk radio update

Sean Hannity launched into a long, strange rant against NBC News. His actual complaint was with MSNBC, but he kept calling it NBC, presumably because that name carries more weight. He also kept invoking the names of Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw, presumably because those names carry more weight than those of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell.

Incredibly enough, Hannity’s basic complaint was that MSNBC wears its political ideology on its sleeve, that it slants the news to fit that ideology, and that it accepts without question biased reports from sources with which it agrees. In other words, he was attacking MSNBC for doing exactly what he does every day, four hours a day.

It makes a fellow wonder: What does Sean Hannity see when he looks in the mirror?

I should mention, by the way, that one commenter here used to frequently respond to my talk radio updates by saying that to be fair I should take on the TV cranks on MSNBC, too. My response always was that my talk radio commentary was a byproduct of delivering papers all day long on Thursday and that I didn’t watch enough MSNBC to have any particular opinion.

That was true enough at the time, but it really isn’t true anymore. For various reasons, I have watched quite a bit of MSNBC over the last couple of years, and I owe that commenter a full response, which I will get to by and by.

For now, just a couple of points:

1. Yes, I agree, Ed Schultz is just as obnoxious from the left as Hannity is from the right. It’s tough to take much of either.

2. I find Maddow and Chris Matthews likeable, Maddow because she is bright and spunky and Matthews because he is a jovial soul who really seems to care about, and know something about, political history. But I rarely have the energy, or interest, to watch either show all the way through. I find O’Donnell very strange.

3. During the daytime, MSNBC does a better job of reporting real news than Fox does, but the gap seems to be narrowing and may have closed altogether after 1 p.m. CNN is far and away the best choice for actual news.

4. None of the above applies to “Up,” MSNBC’s new weekend show with Chris Hayes. It comes on here at 6 a.m., so I miss a lot of it, but it really is worth setting the alarm for. Hayes is the one pundit who treats actual issues as if they mattered, delving deeply into things and discussing them at length with smart people from a variety of angles (this morning it was drone warfare and the Dream Act). You can try to compare what Hayes does to the talking point punditry you get everywhere else, but you really can’t. There is no comparison.


5 thoughts on “Talk radio update

  1. Cenk Uygar had a brief stint as a host on MSNBC, and left when it was made clear or him that the only allowed controversy was that which occurred in the narrow bandwidth between Democrats and Republicans. He was replaced by Al Sharpton who pledged that he would never be critical of Obama.

    MSNBC went after a niche, but has filled it ever so gingerly. Ed Schultz is indeed annoying, but is also true blue. He was a right winger in Fargo, and when that slot was taken by another radio voice, made a swift conversion to the Democratic Party, learning the language in real time.

    Rachel is very, very good off MSNBC, and good there, but even she is constrained to aim her formidable intellect at the other side of partisan politics as we know it.

    As such, in my view, Fox and MSNBC reinforce the notion that our partisan squabbling is useful. CNN, being in the middle and offering useful news is not how I view them. Frequent travelers who view CNN world news in airports and other countries find that its content, including presentation of American news is completely different, geared to a more knowledgeable audience.

  2. I’m with John Prine on this one: “Throw away your TV.” Of course, he went on to say something about throwing away your newspaper, too, but that’s just crazy.

    • I have the opportunity now to read both the Denver Post and Financial Times on the little screen in my lap here. But the experience is somehow different, and I don’t do it, and do not understand why it seems different.

  3. It seems to me that the cable nets (other than CNN, which tries to steer a middle course) are the 21st Century version of what newspapers were in the heyday of Hearst, Pulitzer and the Company papers of the late 19th and early 20th century. That is, news that was slanted to the point of view of the ownership (remember Hearst’s reply to Fredrick Remington, who had said there was nothing going on in Cuba for him to send drawings back for publication in favor of going to war with Spain in 1898: “You supply the pictures, and I’ll supply the war”). Biased media is nothing new now, nor was it then (although the Company paper weren’t really biased, just bland) as papers were formed (and later died) by many a political faction since the first printing press showed up on this side of the Atlantic almost 400 years ago.

    The best thing for an intelligent news consumer (if such a creature exists in this country anymore) is to realize the biases and search realizing that there are two sides to every story — and that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

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