MSNBC’s “Lean Forward” News: Is It News at All?

“Spud” over at Inside Cable News made some interesting points yesterday about MSNBC’s replacing Ronan Farrow with Thomas Roberts:

The problem is Phil Griffin still hasn’t thrown in the towel on POV [Point-of-View] analysis and using progressive programming in its rundown and the viewers know it…or at the very least still believe it to be true. MSNBC has not yet been able to claw back the meme that dayside is for news. These things take time. A lot of time…especially when MSNBC’s programming is still schizoid as it puts non-news people in positions traditionally held by news people.

Just this week, partisan pundit Amy Holmes has been filling in on Way Too Early, a position that previously had been anchored by people from the news division. So the mixed messages are still being sent out by Team Griffin.

Good points, but they don’t go far enough. Fiddling around with Way Too Early is chump change compared to installing Thomas Roberts (who famously warned viewers about voting for Republicans) as an unbiased news anchor for two hours. Any time someone can do ten hours of news in a week and not interview one Republican—let alone conservative—you’re stretching the definition of “hard news” into rhetorical taffy. The Cable Gamer can’t think of any straight news program on FNC or CNN that one-sided.

2011-05-23-MSNBC-NN-HallWe took a look at another of MSNBC’s so-called “news coverage” programs today: NewsNation with Tamron Hall. One of the top stories was the resignation of the police officer in McKinney TX. And that report came from “MSNBC national correspondent” Joy Reid. Yes, the same Joy Reid whose previous role on MSNBC was as a progressive opinion show host; now she’s masquerading as an unbiased MSNBC “correspondent” (something we’ve seen before at MSNBC).

There was also a heavy political tilt in a segment on hospital costs, where the guest was Jean Ross of National Nurses United, “a union and professional organization” according to Ms. Hall. The news anchor served up a series of softballs, as in expressing “surprise” that we don’t have more “laws and regulations” in this area, so the guest could express instant agreement. Left unsaid was that the National Nurses United isn’t just a “professional organization.” It boasts that it was formed out of “three of the most active, progressive organizations in the U.S.” They’ve lobbied for health care reform, taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street, while welcoming socialist Bernie Sanders to their rallies. Yet Tamron calls them merely “a professional organization,” agrees with their points, and presents no opposing point of view. Just to put a bow on this, Tamron Hall also had a political report from NBC’s Mark Murray—who’s married to an Obama appointee, another fact not disclosed to the Lean Forward viewers.

The Cable Gamer has said all along that MSNBC isn’t moving away from opinion; it’s just dressing it up as news coverage. This deception is unseemly, and somehow unworthy of the NBC brand, which used to be associated with names like David Brinkley. Maybe Brian Williams got out while the getting was good.

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