Times Sells MSNBC As 'Progressive But Not Partisan'

In his profile of MSNBC and host Rachel Maddow, reporter Brian Stelter stuck to supportive sources who believe MSNBC has ideological integrity and independence where Fox News has none.

New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter looked on Monday at MSNBC hosts pushing Team Obama from the left. Stelter stuck to supportive sources who believe that MSNBC apparently has ideological integrity and independence where Fox News has none. MSNBC claims to have little contact with the Obama White House, but the staff there love how they're supposedly "progressive but not partisan." Stelter explained:

It is certainly reaching the White House. Anita Dunn, the departing White House communications director, calls Mr. Olbermann and Ms. Maddow "progressive but not partisan," and in doing so, distinguishes them from Fox News, which she considers a political opponent.

The MSNBC hosts, she said in an e-mail message last month, "often take issues with the administration's positions or tactics and are never shy about letting their viewers know when they disagree."

Maddow is much rougher on what she calls the "Conservadems" than she is on the Obama team. She wants a much narrower, more leftist Democratic Party. She favors a small tent. Stelter doesn't wonder whether MSNBC's advocacy is actually going to help the Democrats politically, or drag it too far away from the independents in the middle.

Ms. Maddow said that apart from an off-the-record meeting between Mr. Obama and commentators that she attended last month, she has heard little from the White House.

Mr. Griffin said, "We heard a whole lot more from the Bush White House."

Stelter doesn't define how much that would be. Did the Bush White House call daily? Weekly?

This part of the story is unintentionally funny:

MSNBC's liberal points of view have made the channel an occasional thorn in the side of G.E., but the channel has also fostered a diversity of opinions that people like Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, say were lacking in the past.

"There's been a huge market void for a long time," Mr. Green said. Speaking of the MSNBC hosts, he said, "They are creating an environment where progressive thinkers and activists can thrive."

MSNBC is certainly making a space for radical leftists at The Nation and Mother Jones and hardcore blogs like Firedoglake. But "diversity"? Since when has Keith Olbermann's show ever shown "diversity" in its selection of guests? Has he interviewed a conservative since 2003?

But here's where it's really amusing. Mr. Green's group, the PCCC, is surely a beneficiary of this new space for leftists. Their campaign page shows three YouTube videos touting the impact of their leftist ads through repeated free advertisements and mentions on MSNBC programs. Green is interviewed by Ed Schultz as they promote an ad pressuring Sen. Max Baucus to support a "robust" government option in health care.

In the New York Times funhouse, MSNBC portrays itself not only as "diverse" and nonpartisan, but even somehow in the political center:

Ms. Maddow, not surprisingly, agrees [MSNBC has created space for progressives]. "What looks like the middle of the country ought to look like the middle on TV," she said in an interview this month.

She paused and added, "Maybe that would have helped us make better policy decisions in the country in the past."

Does Maddow really think she's in the middle? Should she call her show Maddow In The Middle?

- Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.