MSNBC: Going Our Way?

Jacques Steinberg (great name!) writes in today’s New York Times that MSNBC wants to create a nightime lineup that liberals can love. I’m not sure they’ve figured out how to do this, however.

Riding a ratings wave from “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” a program that takes strong issue with the Bush administration, MSNBC is increasingly seeking to showcase its nighttime lineup as a welcome haven for viewers of a similar mind.

Lest there be any doubt that the cable channel believes there is ratings gold in shows that criticize the administration with the same vigor with which Fox News’s hosts often champion it, two NBC executives acknowledged yesterday that they were talking to Rosie O’Donnell about a prime-time show on MSNBC.

Um, Rosie O’Donnell? She raised viewership while she was on “The View,” Steinberg says. Yeah, but that was daytime. I agree with Jeralyn that Rosie would be a huge mistake. One of Jeralyn’s commenters suggested either David Schuster or Rachel Maddow. My only objection is that if David Schuster becomes a regular program host he’ll have less time for reporting.

But even without Ms. O’Donnell, MSNBC already presents a three-hour block of nighttime talk — Chris Matthews’s “Hardball” at 7, Mr. Olbermann at 8, and “Live With Dan Abrams” at 9 — in which the White House takes a regular beating. The one early-evening program on MSNBC that is often most sympathetic to the administration, “Tucker” with Tucker Carlson at 6 p.m., is in real danger of being canceled, said one NBC executive, who, like those who spoke of Ms. O’Donnell, would do so only on condition of anonymity.

Well, OK, Carlson is a complete waste of time. That’s the one time slot O’Donnell might improve.

Having a prime-time lineup that tilts ever more demonstrably to the left could be risky for General Electric, MSNBC’s parent company, which is subject to legislation and regulation far afield of the cable landscape. Officials at MSNBC emphasize that they never set out to create a liberal version of Fox News.

Note that Faux News, which is nothing but the propaganda arm of the GOP, doesn’t have to worry about legislation and regulation.

The NBC executive in charge of MSNBC, Phil Griffin, says that the cable channel didn’t set out to favor any political position. He implies the apparent move to the left is being driven by ratings. I suspect that’s true. For years they tried to compete with Faux News by being Faux News Lite. Olbermann has showed them the real way to compete is offering viewers something they can’t see on Faux News. Like, you know, truth and facts and stuff.

MSNBC’s other evening stars, Chris “Tweety” Matthews and Dan Abrams, are hardly fellow travelers of Noam Chomsky, and both still give plenty of time to right-wing mouthpieces. I find Abrams less annoying than Matthews, however. Those of you who miss Joe Scarborough (anybody?) probably already know he moved to mornings awhile back.

Meanwhile, at the Los Angeles Times Jonah Goldberg laments that “fake news,” a la Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, is becoming the new standard in news reporting.

Indeed, while the network news broadcasts are sustained by the consumers of denture cream, adult diapers and pharmacological marital aides, it’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” that have a grip on the hip, iPhone crowd. And plenty of those younger viewers seem to believe that they can deduce what’s going on in the real world from jokes on a fake newscast. It’s no longer funny because it’s true. It’s true because it’s funny.

He had it right the first time — it’s funny because it’s true. Great satire functions by cutting through sugar-coatings and qualifiers to find the absurdities inherent in unvarnished truth. Satirists don’t make up jokes. They reveal The Joke.

For example, in the next paragraph, Jonah blames the problems of modern journalism on the old TV sitcom “Murphy Brown.”

When Brown had a baby out of wedlock, Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the writers of the show. Liberals then reacted as though Quayle had insulted a real person. Ever since, journalists and politicians have been playing themselves in movies and TV series, perhaps trying to disprove the cliche that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.

He’s serious, mind you, and there’s The Joke. You can’t make this shit up. I couldn’t, anyway.

9 thoughts on “MSNBC: Going Our Way?

  1. Oh my god. I never took Roy Edroso’s rule on Jonah Goldberg’s work (“The stupidest thing ever written, until he writes again, after which that will become the stupidest thing ever written”) literally, but…

    Seriously now. It’s too much to ask that Goldberg understand how ridiculous his premise is, but couldn’t he at least not contradict himself in consecutive sentences?

    When Brown had a baby out of wedlock, Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the writers of the show. Liberals then reacted as though Quayle had insulted a real person.

    The writers aren’t real people?

  2. I want a show with Rachel Maddow and David Schuster. Rachel could anchor in the studio and David could be like the roving reporter doing special features and interviews.

  3. Rachel M and David S, in combo would be great. They could rotate the studio vs roving reporter gigs.

    Jonah Goldberg – is there anything as pathetic as a right winger who doesn’t get the joke? And this guy does it regularly, in print, for all to see, in a major newspaper. The LAT has a lot of smart people (still), one wonders what the water cooler conversations are like.

    It’s good (and funny) that MSNBC is bumbling its way toward the Light, or at least toward the light of greater ratings.

  4. Most newscasts have been fake for years. Stewart, Colbert, and friends are just the only ones paying enough attention to know that they’re lying.

  5. I am (unfortunately) old enough to remember The Smothers Brothers, who were critical of Nixon with fantastic satire. They got cancelled at the top of their game because they would not submit tapes of their shows in time for the censors to clip out the best zingers. And despite the top ratings no other network would pick up the show.

    Opposition to the ‘Nam war took many forms, and Barb has noted, not all were effective. But I remeber that my Dad, who was quite conservative, loved to watch the Smothers. Comedy is a vehcle for a message that’s easy to take. The best jabs get repeated at work or school, and the trend to question the motives and misteps of the administration is accelerated.

  6. What’s frightening, is that it seems like this generation’s comedians – Stewart, Colbert, others – were the first to speak out against the regime, a few years ago. It’s as though everyone was in frightened, paralyzed shock until these guys gave us permission to laugh and to feel.

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