Columnist: Future of Network News Is Olbermann's Countdown or Something Like It

November 9th, 2005 11:53 AM

Tim Goodman writes about television for the San Francisco Chronicle. As befits a city in which almost 60 percent of voters oppose military recruiting in public schools, Goodman is just now grasping the notion of political bias on broadcast-network newscasts. Specifically, he believes that such bias will soon be a reality, as opposed to the Media Research Center's well-documented position that it's been quite real for quite a while. (Hat tip: Romenesko.)

Today, Goodman showers praise on MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, calling him a "a bit of a misunderstood visionary...Part journalist, part comic, equal parts dry, silly, skeptical and angry, there has been no traditional role for him and thus he has either been an outcast or a noble failure or a square talent in a business full of round openings. Until, that is, he started 'Countdown' on MSNBC in April 2003."

And, two paragraphs down:

Part Jon Stewart (the funny), Dennis Miller (the erudite and biting sub-references), H.L. Mencken (the skewering of power and stupidity in equal doses) as well as crusading journalist, Olbermann is clearly the future.

Not of cable, of course. Of broadcast network news. His show is what a modern newscast will look like to the masses. They just don't know it yet. And maybe networks won't realize this in time to adequately use him.

Then, the column's payoff in the NewsBusters context:

The network news of the future will be -- count on it -- a lot like Olbermann's "Countdown."

That is to say politically slanted, even though nobody, not even Olbermann or Fox News, will admit to a slant despite evidence that is more tangible than fatuous slogans or winking. Come on -- Olbermann leans left, Fox News leans right. You don't need Stewart to snark that out for you. Currently there's more wiggle (waggle?) room in the cable universe of "news" than there is at the network level, where everyone sincerely preaches at the altar of objectivity. In the future: less lying to the audience, more promoting said "bias" as something to be proud of. Look to British newspapers for guidance on that.

Give Goodman two points for recognizing Olbermann's liberal (and Fox's conservative) bias, but deduct several dozen for his failure to perceive the longstanding biases of the NBC Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, and ABC World News Tonight.