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NY Time TV critic Alessandra Stanley doesn't think much about MSNBC.

She wrote a column today in which she described a network that "stains" the reputation of the great and fabulous NBC News operation.

She claims that Brian Williams avoids MSNBC talk shows and that David Gregory and Tom Brokaw "are badly needed but don’t stay long or join the fray — like piano players in a brothel, they don’t go upstairs."

And then she really rips into MSNBC with this:

MSNBC has a growing cast of anchor-bloviators — hosts like Martin Bashir, Tamron Hall and, of course, Al Sharpton, who rant and then invite like-minded guest commentators to assure them that they are right.
She describes Chris Matthews as acting almost "thuggish."

And she closes with this shot at Melissa Harris-Perry:

Virginia’s governor, Bob McDonnell, who backed, then rescinded, a state bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first have an invasive ultrasound, is a favorite target. After his convention speech, the MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry said sarcastically that Republicans might be nervous “standing next to a governor who represents a vision of small government that is small enough to put on the end of a transvaginal probe.”

No wonder Brian Williams stays away.

Stanley's column is a classic example of what's wrong with American journalism today. She expects TV news to rise above it all, to simply report what is said, without any context or analysis.

The news must be sterlized of opinion so that the credibility of journalists will not be "stained."

In Stanley's world, Brian Williams is the calm and reasonable adult while Rachel Maddow is one of the undisciplined children allowed to draw on the walls with crayons.

In Stanley's world, one never, ever calls out anyone for lying, even when the facts are crystal clear.

I've seen decades of that kind of sterile journalism. Thankfully, it's time has come and gone.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You know we're winning when (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TXdem, Aspe4, ColoTim, raina

    every mouthpiece of theirs is crying about how horrid the big meanie Dems are.

    Keep it up chaps

    (PS Sorry if this comment appears twice - when I clicked Post, something went squiffy, I think is the technical term.)

  •  FOX Nooz has set the standard lady....ask CNN. (7+ / 0-)
  •  couldn't disagree more -- commentary isn't (7+ / 0-)

    journalism.  opinion isn't news.

    each has it's place but confusing, conflating, overlaying or splicing them is a disservice to the facts and the audience, no matter if you agree with the hot air, or not.

    It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

    by Murphoney on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 08:40:43 AM PDT

    •  The news model you seem to prefer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Texdude50, fumie, Aspe4

      is one in which reporters and anchors give only the facts and pretend that they are neutral and objective. The reality is that they have very strong opinions that they either suppress or only discuss off camera.

      This worship of objectivity is more than just a facade. It's a fraud. And that's the true disservice t the audience.

    •  So watch Al Jazerra or PBS. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quaoar, greengemini, ColoTim

      All the American cable news networks have to sell ad time and the partisan "bloviators" draws an audience.

      And critics complaining about critics is too ironic for words.

      •  here... (0+ / 0-)
        each has it's place but confusing, conflating, overlaying or splicing them is a disservice to the facts and the audience, no matter if you agree with the hot air, or not.
        different timeslots.  problem solved.

        It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

        by Murphoney on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 09:05:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I agree, Murphoney. Commentary has a place (5+ / 0-)

      but it needs to be identified as commentary.  

      That comment by Ms. Harris-Perry quoted in the diary was clearly, clearly NOT journalism, but commentary.  It is fine on a commentary show.  It is NOT "fine" on a show that purports to be journalism.  I can completely understand the complaints about that on NBC.  It is fine on MSNBC, which makes clear that its "talking heads" are doing commentary, not journalism.

      People who want to be journalists still have a place.  I do not want a world where my only choices are to watch events like the national conventions either with commentary by the left or by commentary by the right.  

      And before people start yelling, "but they are only pointing out the facts!" let me say I have no objection to a journalist pointing out the facts.  There's a difference between journalism and commentary when dealing with those facts.  

      With respect to Gov. McDonnell, this is appropriate for a journalist:

      'Gov. McDonnell backed, then rescinded, a state bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first have an invasive ultrasound
      This is NOT appropriate for a journalist, but IS appropriate for a commentator:  
      Republicans might be nervous “standing next to a governor who represents a vision of small government that is small enough to put on the end of a transvaginal probe.”
      To give another example, I agree that Maddow is very good at what she does.  But she is NOT a journalist.  She is doing commentary.  There is nothing wrong with commentary.  It has its place. If I want commentary from the left, I can go to MSNBC.  If I want commentary from the right, I can go to FNC.  I understand that people here -- because they are left-leaning -- agree with the MSNBC commentary, and think the MSNBC commentary is true while the FNC commentary is not, but it is intellectually dishonest not to recognize that it is still commentary.  That's what I know I will get if I choose to watch MSNBC. If I go to the networks, I at least expect an attempt at journalism instead of commentary (I understand that it is not always successful). Some of us still recognize a difference.
      •  There's a lot of choice words used and decisions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quaoar

        on which stories to cover and which to ignore that show the slant of even the big 3 networks and their view of what is news and what isn't.  NBC isn't likely to cover (or at least spend as much time covering) a  piece of news that puts GE (their parent corporation) in a bad light.  They might not opine on the news, but if they limit coverage, they're still demonstrating an opinion.  If they cover a gaffe by Mitt Rmoney, they could be accused of being leftist media elites, even if all they do is report the 5 w's of the gaffe, and they may shy away from that.  If they report a Ryan lie as a lie, they will be accused of being leftist media elites, even if they stick to the facts (because facts have a left-wing bias).  

        There are choices that get made, and they're not all obvious.

        •  Two points. (0+ / 0-)

          First, I agree with you that choice of stories can often show a bias.  There is no journalism completely free of bias.  

          Second, it depends what you mean by "report a Ryan lie as a lie."  Often, there are some underlying facts behind what was said.  "Ryan is lying" is commentary.  "Ryan said a, b, c, d, and our investigation shows that what happened is a, b, g, e, f" is reporting.  When you lay out the facts, that's reporting.  That assumes that if you put forth facts -- quote what he said, list the actual facts -- I can draw my own conclusions as to how truthful Ryan is, or is not, being.  Drawing conclusions for your viewers/listeners/readers -- saying "he lied," for example -- that's commentary.  

      •  Not quite correct, Coffeetalk, with all due respec (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quaoar, IreGyre

        One of the things Rachel in particular does is look for and pick up news items not covered in the broadcast spectrum, and make them into news items that are picked up. We would not know about the fired voting officials in Ohio and the structure that got tehm fired if someone had not brought that to national attention, or the voting suppression in general if that had not been done.  

        •  She then takes it a step further and does (0+ / 0-)

          commentary about those news items.  If she just reported what happens, that's closer to journalism.  If she says why it's important, or why she thinks it's something you should know about, or why she thinks it happened, or why the media did not pick up on it, or what it shows you about officials, or Republicans, or whatever, that's commentary.  

          In other words, reporting on the officials that got fired is one thing.  Talking about the "structure that got them fired" is where she went into commentary.  

          •  Better she shuts up and waits for someone else? (0+ / 0-)

            to do the commentary?

            Pretend neutral is what passes for neutral these days and that provides great cover for what is being done in plain sight and not reported on let alone commented on....

            Public discourse and participation is down because the public has been slowly weaned off of substance over many decades and hooked on distraction, content light abstraction and cartoon versions of the issues. And we end up with the TV wrestling version of politics in the media which makes the CT. senate race even more of a tragi-comedy than it already is.

            Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

            by IreGyre on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 02:36:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nothing wrong with commentary. There's a place (0+ / 0-)

              for it.  I just think it's important that people recognize the difference -- that journalists report facts, and commentators draw conclusions from those facts.  It's intellectually dishonest to mistake commentary by someone like Maddow as "facts."  She begins with facts, then states conclusions from those facts -- that's commentary.  Journalism reports facts and leaves it to the viewer to draw the conclusions.  

              Maddow is very very good at what she does - but it's commentary, not journalism.

              Some of us prefer to watch journalism.  (And yes, I know  there's an underlying "bias" in almost all journalism -- but a journalism show should make an effort to simply report facts and let me draw conclusions.)  That's my only point. When I watch what purports to be a journalism news show, I don't expect to see commentary unless it is clearly labeled as such (such as some shows that have a "comment" section at the end).  If I want commentary from the left, I know where to go to look for it.  Just like those who want commentary from the right know where to look for that, too.  

              •  Sure but rather than sit and wait for improvement (0+ / 0-)

                while bad, know-nothing journalism mostly ignores travesties and the erosion of democracy what do we need?... maybe we need more commentary-heavy versions of journalism to fill in the gaps and keep things honest. Sure, a return to the journalism of the past would be great but I do not see it happening soon... and not while sitting and hoping it will come back on its own. It would be great if it did sometime soon but hoping and wishing will not make it so.

                A return to more awareness and involvement by the general public and that in turn driving new media that responds to the needs of a public like that will be evolutionary and generational. We had many years of growing consumer passivity in front of the TV and it will take many years to grow out of that. Newspapers were still vital in the first decades of the television era and had the slow but still vigorous interaction of letters to the editor and journalism with integrity. People knew which papers were the rags and which were dependable sources... But as corporations consolidated the media and print began dying while broadcast multiplied and splintered the direction was set to cater to passive consumers who have become more and more vulnerable to increasingly more direct propaganda if not just misleading and incomplete reporting as overall it degenerated into the entertainment driven news of the present.

                And while we have entertainment tinged commentary rather than dry and relatively less passionate commentary of yesteryear, the commentary on the left has to balance that of the right and also do it with better command of the facts as well as being engaging. As the media of the future becomes more interactive and communal, democratic and dispersed at the same time as people get more used to verifying facts directly that may all drive a new incarnation of neutral reporting in the media... but it can never go back to how it was in past decades of fewer stations and longer attention spans.

                Maybe Rachel Maddows are the best we can have (and that is pretty good all said) to keep additional information flowing into the public sphere as some form of news for now in this transition period we find ourselves in. Imagine a CNN and FOX only world? And newspapers reduced to USA Today clones or nothing? Commentators who can shake things up in a world where people can check things for themselves far more readily than ever before in history means they have to fact check and really dig for the truth and that can be VERY entertaining... the truth is always more interesting than fiction when our lives and well being are intimately linked in ways that bring it home to us.

                Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

                by IreGyre on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 05:12:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You certainly are free to make the choice (0+ / 0-)

                  that you want to listen to commentary.  That's fine.  I'm not saying commentary is a bad thing.  Many people like it.  That's how Fox News became the highest watched news network -- because a whole lot of people like to watch commentators reinforce their already-held beliefs.  If you like to watch commentary from the left, I have no problem -- none -- with that.  

                  Some of us want journalists who report facts, leaving us to draw conclusions about those facts.  If people like Brian Williams, and the journalists at NBC, want to be regarded as journalists, and want to keep whatever credibility they have as journalists, they have to distance themselves from commentators and make sure there is that line of demarcation.   If the commentators stay on MSNBC on shows that are not pretending to be journalistic news shows, I'm completely fine with commentators and I'm completely fine withe people choosing to watch commentators -- as long as nobody is pretending that commentators are simply reporting "facts" and nothing more.  

                  •  The audience chooses.. and the owners choose (0+ / 0-)

                    and they unfortunately do not choose or even understand or perhaps care what real journalists are and what journalism should be. And the employers of those who purvey the "news" do not want free expression and search for neutral truth. It does not get ratings they want and make money the way they want or sell the version of reality they and their oligarch friends/allies favor.

                    That is what we are stuck with. What will or can change this reality? Entertainment news heavy on commentary controlled by multinational corporations is not good for a democracy but what is the cure?

                    Time. Time to get past the current imbalance between what sells and what is true. When this commentator dominant incarnation of "News" becomes even more dysfunctional and when the audience gets replaces and the younger ones have moved on even more than they already have... maybe they will be savvy enough to look for, demand, expect more fact based, less opinion driven information sources... and have the knowledge and ability to know what those might be. But it will take time. As I said before to large a percentage of the general public is passive and trusting of their sources and they got that way over many years of erosion of public awareness and involvement.

                    TV has made too many people into passive consumers of content. Plenty of people have always been that way already in any age, incurious, undiscerning, biased and only receptive to affirmations of preconceptions but the TV age expanded them made them dominant in the audience and market for news. Their viewing eyes intensified the trend and enabled the consolidating powers behind the media to take it to a new extreme.... but any extreme is unsustainable and the only problem with its inevitable "sell by date" is that it will take a long time for a societal correction to swing things back to whatever the newer media has as a more neutral journalism based format.

                    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

                    by IreGyre on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 01:42:06 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  The New York Times meant something once (17+ / 0-)

    Judith Miller pretty much killed that perception forever.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 08:41:42 AM PDT

    •  Judith Miller Couldn't Kill Something Already Dead (4+ / 0-)

      During the McCarthy era, the Times fired reporters who took the Fifth Amendment or who admitted communist associations.

      There was Wen Ho Lee.

      And before Wen Ho Lee, John Corry was the Times television critic.

      Judith Miller didn't kill the Times, Punch Sulzberger did, especially when he appointed Abe Rosenthal to be Executive Editor.

      There was a brief interlude when the American ruling class was at war with itself and things like the Pentagon Papers and Watergate got written about.  

      It was a very brief interlude.

      This aggression will not stand, man.

      by kaleidescope on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 09:32:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Getting Under Their Skin, Eh? (17+ / 0-)

    The MSNBC anchors really should double down.  Watching Rachel Maddow last night, I saw a brilliantly prepared, intelligent actual investigative reporter.

    She held the stage.  We've got the intellectual talent, FOX has the blonde ladies.  No wonder Ms Stanley is feeling nervous.  

  •  I was just thinking last night, (14+ / 0-)

    while watching the convention, how grateful I was to have Rachel and my other MSNBC friends there talking with me about it, because

    (1) their companionship is the only thing that enables me to stomach the nauseating HateLieFest, and

    (2) When a speech gets to the point where I can't stomach listening to any more of it, I can still listen to Rachel & Co and get an idea of what was said without having to actually experience it.

    "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

    by NWTerriD on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 08:44:10 AM PDT

  •  Frankly Alessandra, David Gregory and Tom Brokaw (12+ / 0-)

    can both go fuck themselves. As better men and women than I have pointed out, they're Royal Courtiers, NOT 'Newsmen'.
    When I see either of them on the tube, I reach for the mute button. I'm not a fan of every single MSNBC personality, not by a long shot, but I'd rather listen to any of them for a few min than the droning Designated Establishment Supplicants you claim to prefer.

  •  best part is where she objects to (10+ / 0-)

    them calling lies lies.

  •  Perhaps, if the institutions of journalism (13+ / 0-)

    such as your paper, Ms. Stanley, actually did their jobs, opinion leaders would not have to do so.

    Ultimately, the only thing that matters with respect to preserving choice is who will be nominating the next Supreme Court Justices.

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 08:49:32 AM PDT

  •  Ailes shat on network news and network news let (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quaoar, Aspe4

    him....we were all there witnessing it Alessandra.

  •  This is Alessandra Stanley (6+ / 0-)

    She lies, she misrepresents, she leaves important things out, and that's just the beginning.  Here's gawker, from June 29.

    This isn't the first time.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 08:58:10 AM PDT

    •  Wikipedia (4+ / 0-)

      Has a pile-O-links from people who've caught Stanley out.  The last paragraph is delicious:

      "Several news and media organizations, including the Times, have criticized the accuracy of Stanley's reporting.[6][7][8][9][10] Among the articles that they have criticized are a September 5, 2005 piece on Hurricane Katrina,[11] a 2005 article that called the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond "All About Raymond",[12] and a July 18, 2009 retrospective on the career of Walter Cronkite that contained eight research and spelling errors.[13] In an August 2009 article examining the mistakes in the Cronkite piece, Clark Hoyt, the Times's public editor, described Stanley as "much admired by editors for the intellectual heft of her coverage of television" but "with a history of errors".[14] Then executive editor Bill Keller defended Stanley, saying "She is — in my opinion, among others — a brilliant critic." [15] In April 2012, Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald described her New York Times review of Julian Assange's television debut as "revealing, reckless snideness" and "cowardly."[16]"

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

  •  This line is interesting (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    basquebob, madhaus, Aspe4, ColoTim, quaoar, IreGyre

    Here is a lesson on being fair and balanced from Ms. Stanley:

    On Thursday, Mr. Matthews fulminated against Paul Ryan’s — admittedly misleading — assertion that Mr. Obama did nothing to prevent the closing of a GM plant in 2008. Then Fox News attacked media figures who attacked Mr. Ryan. CNN took the harder course of parsing the entire issue: The correspondent Tom Foreman gave a long, industrious analysis that explained where and how Mr. Ryan finessed the facts.
    So a real reporter explains how Ryan "finessed the facts."  Real reports don't identify it as  lie.

    Too bad Ms. Stanley did not have the space to describe how the real reporter explained Ryan's finesse.

    Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

    by MoDem on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 09:34:05 AM PDT

  •  a history (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, quaoar

    Ms. Stanley has a long history of attacking Rachel Maddow in numerous columns, so this is typical of her.

  •  her very first line is the most chilling (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, quaoar
    You can agree with everything that Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz say on MSNBC and still oppose their right to say it.
    Ms. Stanley thumbs her nose at the First Amendment.

    She completely inverts the idea that "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" (which Voltaire didn't actually say, but assuredly sums up his philosophy).

    How can someone who would write something so antithetical to the way we (try to/used to) operate in the United States of America be handed column inches in a newspaper? Much less a newspaper that once exemplified the essence of First Amendment rights.

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

    by N in Seattle on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:00:02 AM PDT

  •  Alessandra Stanley, big deal, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quaoar

    For someone who is going to excoriate MSNBC on their supposed stain on the reputation of a news organization, she has a pretty shaky (and recent) record of making a stain herself.

  •  I enjoy MSNBC (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quaoar, IreGyre

    I like that the reputed 'liberal bias' of the media actually turns up fairly frequently on MSNBC. I personally attribute that to the oft quoted Colbert line about "reality has a liberal bias".

    I might finally forgive Chris Matthews for his Swift Boat enablement during the Kerry campaign after his calling out of Rance Priebus the other day. I feel like he has seen where softball journalism and smear campaigns and false quivalencies that go unchallenged by media types takes us. Good for you Chris! You act like a man who just doesn't give a damn anymore about the cocktail weenie circuit.

    David Gregory is a useless putz who masquerades as a journalist. Tom Brokaw has milked the Greatest Generation gig as far as it can go. Rachel Maddow is terrific for the most part, although not tough enough on Democrats when they act like Republican lite. I admire Ed Schultz's passion. Same for Al Sharpton. Joe Scarborough is a self-absorbed bombastic nitwit who finds a way to carry every single conversation back to his 3 and a half terms as a junior Congressman deficit cutting ninja before he suddenly needed to spend more time with his family. Mika is pretty much a doormat who is afraid to articulate any definitive stand on anything. Luke Russert is a walking advertisement against nepotism and Chuck Todd just recently revealed himself to be a Republican toady.

    I find the most interesting person on MSNBC lately to be Chris Hayes - he appears insightful, often brilliant yet humble and seemingly actually invested in conversation and dialogue.  

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 01:00:08 PM PDT

  •  The email I wrote to Ms. Stanley (0+ / 0-)

    Ms. Stanley,

    Your column yesterday really had me facepalming. Most fair-minded observers who are actually paying attention, particularly those in the "fact-checking" business, have come to the same conclusion that I did four years ago: Republicans lie, distort, and get the facts wrong much, MUCH more often than Democrats.

    You think the MSNBC personalities are just blowing smoke while Brian Williams is above the fray? Then why did the NBC Nightly News feature, on the day after the Paul Ryan speech, a lengthy segment examining the falsehoods in the Ryan speech? Immediately after that, why did Williams challenge Ryan on some of those falsehoods face-to-face in an interview segment? Has Williams become one of those awful, shrill MSNBC bloviators? Or have the Republicans' lies become so frequent and brazen that Williams said enough was enough? I vote the latter.

    The difference between the mainstream media and MSNBC is that the MSM is afraid to call out mistruths, for fear of alienating partisan viewers, whereas MSNBC's whole business model is telling the truth (even if it's partisan).

    So when MSNBC's panelists call Republicans liars and say Republicans think of welfare recipients as looters, these are descriptions of objective reality. Ditto Matthews' report that Romney got zero applause when he talked about giving the poor a helping hand. Oh, there were a few scattered claps, probably from people aware that America was watching. But by and large that crowd thinks of the poor as lazy moochers, if not looters. That's what surveys of conservatives show, and that is the exact language used by people like Ayn Rand and many of her followers. Don't believe me? Here: http://www.bloomberg.com/...

    Some people probably accused you of doing the false balance, false equivalency thing that people in the mainstream media do so often in their zeal to appear objective and non-partisan. In your case, though, I think you're just a political independent, which survey after survey has shown to be the group that is the most woefully uninformed about politics.

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