N.Y. Times Easily Embraces MSNBC 'Lean Forward' Motto as Liberal = Forward

New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter found it easy Tuesday to embrace the idea that liberalism means forward progress. In a story on MSNBC's new motto, Stelter began: 

MSNBC, once the also-ran but now the No. 2 cable news channel, has a new tagline that embraces its progressive political identity.

The tagline, “Lean Forward,” will be publicly announced Tuesday, opening a planned two-year advertising campaign intended to raise awareness of the channel among viewers, advertisers and distributors.

It can also easily be mocked as lean forward, as in to vomit -- or lean forward in a bow, as Obama does to foreign leaders.  The story continued:

The tagline “defines us and defines our competition,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, his implication being that the Fox News Channel, which is No. 1 in cable news and a home for conservatives, is leaning backward.
Some of the new MSNBC ads include shots of President Obama on his election night; others, directed by the filmmaker Spike Lee, showcase hosts like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow preparing for their nightly programs; and still others feature quotes like “the future belongs to the fearless.”

Stelter didn't suggest that perhaps Olbermann could throw a trash can through the window of a pizza parlor, and then burn it down -- as in the crucial police-brutality-race-riot scene in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Since Lee is involved, unsurprisingly, Hurricane Katrina is one of MSNBC's themes (if not his conspiracy theory that the levees were blown up on purpose):

The resulting ads are not day-and-date promotions for specific programs; rather, they are emotional set pieces about the national debate that moves America forward. The MSNBC brand “is about ideas and change and making the country a better place,” Mr. Griffin said.

“It’s an umbrella that’s pretty wide, but that does have a progressive sensibility,” he continued. “We’re confident. We’re strong. Let’s not live in the past, let’s not live by fear.”

Two 60-second television commercials that introduce the message are patriotic and poignant. One begins with a child learning how to walk and intersperses scenes of war, rescues in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a peace protest and the moon landing. “When we understand the world around us, we lose our fear and we move ahead,” the narrator says.

The other 60-second commercial says, “Starting today, may the ideas that advance our country, no matter who or where they come from, win.” The remaining commercials feature individual hosts like Mr. Olbermann, who is shown in his office writing one of his trademark commentaries, and Lawrence O’Donnell, the new 10 p.m. host, who is overheard saying, “We deserve answers, so we don’t ask the same questions tomorrow.”

Stelter also doesn't consider that MSNBC can be cited for pushing a lot of fear -- first, fear of the impending Bush dictatorship, and now, fear of a violent Tea Party movement, not to mention pushing the fear of disastrous global warming. Stelter even suggests that it's "coincidental" (instead of an obvious part of the branding) that Obama is featured in MSNBC ads: 

Mr. Obama is shown only briefly in the two 60-second commercials. He is both seen and heard in a video about the ad campaign that was screened for MSNBC employees on Monday, coincidentally summing up the channel’s progressive message.

“We can go backward, or we can keep moving forward,” the president was shown saying in a June speech at Carnegie Mellon University. “And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward.”

There are no voices critical of MSNBC in the Times article. 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis