Clearing The Air On The Politico/MSNBC Relationship (Or Lack Thereof)


All day yesterday there was talk about a Politico/MSNBC relationship. This talk all started because of a poorly thought out, selective memory-riddled, a bridge- too-far piece in The Daily Caller by Jeff Poor. I’d hoped that someone would have come out and knocked Poor’s article down by now but nobody has so I guess I have to. I have no interest in whether Politico is a liberal publication or not because it doesn’t concern cable news. I only care about Poor’s attempt to tie Politico to MSNBC.

The gist of Poor’s argument could be summarized thusly:

Politico = Liberal + MSNBC = Liberal + Politico staffers showing up on MSNBC frequently = Liberals in bed with one another.

To support his argument Poor spent one week (!) sampling MSNBC extensively (in one week?) and combined that with the fact that FNC hasn’t had Politico people on its air since May 2010. But then Poor undermines his entire thesis thusly…

Not exclusive to MSNBC

Despite the close ties to MSNBC, Politico reporters do appear on other cable channels. Politico’s Kenneth Vogel, for example, is a regular guest on Current TV’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” Politico national political reporters Alexander Burns and David Catanese, and Politico White House reporter Joe Williams, have also appeared on that effervescently left-wing cable program.

Other Politico reporters have appeared on CNN, especially in the weeks since Politico first reported sexual harassment allegations against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

Hang on…MSNBC has, according to Poor, had Politico reporters on 24 times in a one week time frame (which averages out to 3.1 Politico appearances per day) but it has also had its people appear on CNN and Current. Doesn’t sound like much of a Politico – MSNBC relationship to me. The fact that FNC hasn’t had Politico people on since May 2010 is an irrelevant point since that’s an FNC decision not a Politico one. And Poor’s FNC point isn’t helped any when on the same day Bill O’Reilly reaches out to…wait for it…Politico to talk about controversy surround his book. Oops.

And then as if sensing he hadn’t undermined himself enough Poor goes on to dig an even deeper hole…

The relationship between the two media outlets extends beyond merely inviting Politico’s reporters on MSNBC. On March 30, during an interview on Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio show, Politico editor-in-chief John Harris defended NBC News, MSNBC and “Hardball” host Chris Matthews against charges that the cable channel’s left-leaning hosts could unfairly influence his organization’s news coverage, particularly because Politico and MSNBC co-hosted a Republican presidential debate.

“Well, I just don’t accept the premise and I don’t accept your premise about Chris Matthews, who I admire,” Harris said. “In any event, Chris Matthews is not the moderator of this debate — Brian Williams, who is going to be bringing his journalistic reputation, his journalistic values to bear, just as I will be, Hugh, as the other moderator.”

Uh…what? Poor cites John Harris arguably knocking down the idea of any MSNBC taint at Politico in a convincing manner as evidence of MSNBC taint at Politico?

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

There is no cozy relationship between Politico and MSNBC except where the world of politics and political coverage is concerned. When it’s political, MSNBC wants political writers to discuss what’s going on be it someone from The National Journal, The New York Times, or Politico. Four years ago it wasn’t Politico that was seen a lot on MSNBC. In fact four years ago Politico was essentially blacklisted from MSNBC over a period of several months because CNN was co-sponsoring a debate with Politico and MSNBC didn’t want to give Politico people any face time as a result.

And if Politico did indeed want to crawl into bed with MSNBC it wouldn’t be sending its people over to Current or CNN. It would want to cement the relationship with some sort of content sharing agreement. That’s the way you construct a beneficial relationship. There’s no money in it for Politico to be spreading itself out if the goal is to forge an identity based on ideology. It’s completely counterproductive.

For NBC it’s much the same thing. If it wanted MSNBC to be in bed with Politico it wouldn’t be co-sponsoring a debate with Politico one month and then co-sponsoring a debate with The National Journal a few months later. No, all its debates would be co-sponsored with Politico. Highlighting rival publications in debates runs counter to what you do if your intended goal is to latch on hard to one only.

Poor is trying, with great difficulty, to explain a relationship in ideological terms that is far easier explained using basic cable news operational terms.

Note – this post first appeared on Inside Cable News and appears here with consent.

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