In academia, it is not uncommon for professors to offer snarky criticism of Fox News while neglecting to point out the flaws of its left-wing counterpart, MSNBC. Regardless of its many shortcomings as a “fair and balanced” news network, Fox has two things that MSNBC does not: ratings, and the nerve to criticize both political parties during presidential campaigns.
Throughout the seemingly never-ending 2012 race for the White House, Pew Research found that MSNBC covered former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) with greater hostility than Fox News did with President Obama.
The situation dramatically worsened when MSNBC invited White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and Obama political adviser David Axelrod to join its payroll. Giving positions to former White House staffers is nothing new, as former Clinton staffers James Carville and Paul Begala are featured on CNN, while ex-Bush employees Karl Rove and Dana Perino are contributors on Fox News.
The major difference is that these jobs were given to the former staffers once a new president took office. This conflict of interest makes it impossible for MSNBC to cover the president fairly, and people are beginning to notice.
Recently, MSNBC darling Rachel Maddow conducted an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) for Reddit and failed to answer the most popular questions voted on by users. The likely reason that these questions were ignored is because they would require Maddow to be critical of the Obama administration.
Instead of opining on the president’s greatest failure, Maddow prattled on about the election of 1800. Rather than explain why MSNBC did not cover the Bradley Manning trial, the anchor deferred to the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag.
By the time the interview concluded, the AMA thread was riddled with criticism from disappointed users such as j_rock_baby who exclaimed, “the fact she did not answer the 2 most important and top questions has honestly destroyed much of my respect for her.”
The entire interview was so devastating for Maddow that it warranted an official statement from MSNBC in defense of the popular host. This event is representative of the network’s greatest problem: credibility. Instead of becoming a news outlet capable of acting as a government watchdog, MSNBC is hamstrung by its hiring of liberal pundits, such as Chris Matthews, who gets a “thrill up his leg” when the president speaks and progressive news anchors who spend their time vexing over the appropriate title for Obama.
In 2010, MSNBC launched a new branding campaign, “Lean Forward.” However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the network’s slogan should actually be, “Lean Left,” as it currently serves as a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. The practice of media bias in America is dangerous, and has forced an entire generation of young Americans to seek news from alternative sources. If MSNBC wants to turn its ratings around, it’s going to need to try something more revolutionary than a new marketing strategy. Perhaps they should start by critiquing bad policy, even those that come directly from the Oval Office.