One of my favorite scenes from the eponymous Mary Tyler Moore sitcom of the '70s -- doofus anchorman Ted Baxter is on the air when producer Mary Richards rushs into the studio with breaking news.
Baxter sees Richards from the corner of his eye as she waves the bulletin to get his attention. Laughing nervously, Baxter says, Can't you see I'm on the air, Mary?
Richards hands the bulletin to Baxter and whispers, Read it. Whereupon Baxter does just that -- silently. Out loud!, Richards implores. Followed by Baxter reading the bulletin, skeptically, then crumbling it in a ball and saying, Now back to the real news.
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" ended its glorious run way back in 1977, but Baxter's flimsy grasp of journalism lives on -- in liberal radio host and MSNBC action hero Ed Schultz.
Schultz provided evidence of this on his radio show Wednesday when criticizing Fox News and Glenn Beck, beginning a segment of the show with remarks from Fox News president Roger Ailes (audio here) --
AILES: Sarah Palin is a contributor to Fox News. Geraldine Ferraro's been a contributor to Fox News for over 10 years. We never had any problems with that. Suddenly we sign Sarah Palin in a similar position and we have a problem. Now who's fault is that? We think we are fair and balanced. We think the others aren't.
SCHULTZ: Oh, from the belly of the beast. That's the man himself, Roger Ailes, explaining that Geraldine Ferraro has been a Democratic strategist and contributor for Fox and what's the big deal now that Sarah Palin is? (laughs) Yeah, they're fair and balanced and they think that the other guys aren't. Don't tell me you do news, OK? Just don't tell me you do news. ... Now you tell me if this is news --
BECK: This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people. ... This guy is, I believe, a racist ...
SCHULTZ: There you go, good 'ol the Beckster. There's news for ya, huh? (laughs)
Wrong, Ed -- that's opinion for ya, and I'm not surprised you can't tell the difference.
What Beck provides isn't news, it's commentary, nor does Beck claim otherwise. Sure, Beck tells stories, but storytelling and journalism are hardly synonymous.
Beck's Web site describes what he does as "the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment". Following the "about" link from Beck's homepage, a reader finds Beck's show on Fox News described as "one of the most successful new shows" on the channel, providing "insightful views on current events", the program being a "self-titled topical talk show". But no, not "news".
In fairness to Schultz, the "about" section at his radio Web site also does not describe Schultz as a journalist or delivering news. (Curiously, the page makes no mention of "The Ed Show" on MSNBC, which began a year ago in April 2009). Nor does the "about" page on Schultz at his MSNBC site refer to him as a journalist or the program as a news broadcast.
But in a press release earlier this week, MSNBC described "The Ed Show" as "the only cable news show in the time period to grow versus last year," as Schultz told radio listeners Wednesday.
Beyond that, Schultz implies to viewers of "The Ed Show" that the program is a news broadcast by running a regular segment called "OpEd" -- as if the rest of the show wasn't.
The remainder of the show being, as Schultz would say, the real news.