The Washington Post reports that MSNBC suspended two on-air journalists in November for making undisclosed political contributions to the Democratic Party.
The Washington Post reports that it is forbidden for MSNBC and NBC's journalists to donate to political candidates. Joe Scarbourough confessed that he had violated this rule, stating he'd forgotten he made the contributions. He made five contributions of $500 each to candidates, and MSNBC found out he made three other contributions to past local candidates. Scarbouough's colleague Keith Olbermann was suspended by MSNBC two weeks earlier for donating money to candidates.
The Washington Post reports that their ethics policies draws no distinction between news reporters and opinionated hosts. MSNBC does not want to send out the message that their employees are favoring one party or individual candidates. The policy states taking part in political activities and making donations jeopardizes an employee , "standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest."
Ted Koppel writes for the Washington Post about how journalism is changing, and therefore it does not make sense to enforce these policies on opinionated hosts. Koppel writes, "to witness the most opinionated MSNBC's left-leaning, Fox-baiting, money-generating hosts" suspended for donating to the Democratic political candidates, "seemed like a whimsical, arcane holdover from a long-gone era of television journalism."
Koppel argues that Olbermann is already defined by the public as left leaning, and therefore it would not be a surprise that he would donate to those candidates. Koppel states that we live in a "cable news universe" that celebrates opinionated journalism and forgets about hard nosed reporting along with objectivity. The commercial success of Fox News and MSNBS are the reason that investigative reporting has dwindled and the number of opinionated hosts has dramatically increased.
I found that the suspension of Olbermann and Scarborough was almost as if the MSNBC was making fun of the ethics of the situation. The hosts were only suspended for two days for making donations that clearly violate the station's ethical standards. I believe MSNBC suspended the hosts because they were obligated to and it was the right decision to make so the organization looks reputable, but I believe the lack of severity of the suspension shows how strongly they feel about the issue.
I believe the Ted Koppel brings up many interesting points about the changing ethical standards that need to accompany the changing journalism. We are in a new-era of journalism, and the ethical standards seem to be outdated for this era. Investigative journalists searched for objectivity and providing the public with the truth. Today cable news has changed journalists to provide the public with the type of story they want to hear. Individuals can chose MSNBC's liberal news station or Fox New's conservative station to be spoon fed the opinion and spin they want to hear. This is where it seems almost silly that the hosts were suspended, because their viewpoint is already proudly displayed in their opinions.
I think that the suspension of these two hosts raising questions about a bigger issue that needs to be addressed in journalism. With journalism evolving into a new practice, there needs to be a new code of ethics that guides opinionated journalism.