Saturday, January 22, 2011

Was Olbermann fired just because his bosses could fire him?

Salon writer Steve Kornacki reasons that MSNBC doesn't need Keith Olbermann because he was successful in setting a new identity for the network.

Kornacki's thesis is that Olbermann brought a strong liberal voice to the network when it needed an identity. MSNBC responded by bringing abroad liberal hosts like Rachael Maddow (an Olbermann find) and creating a strong fan base.

On the other hand, the coincidence of the firing coming right before a right-leaning corporation takes over MSNBC's parent is almost too much to believe, and if Kornacki's right, then that makes it even more likely that Olbermann's firing is political in nature.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bonnie Brennen gets civility right

Marquette Journalism Professor Bonnie Brennen gets it right in a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that looks at the state of discourse today.

The newspaper asked "six Wisconsin professors whose specialties are history, political science or communication" about the state of discourse. The other five -- including a couple of personal friends of mine -- correctly said that political discourse has been very unpleasant throughout our history, including duels and attacks on the Capitol floor. But Brennen brought the discussion to communication (which is really what we're all talking about)." There is seemingly no interest in having a rational conversation," she was quoted as saying.

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater communications professor Richard Haven also looked at the question beyond merely discourse between political figures to discuss our public conversation, citing "instant communication" and extreme political positions as reasons for a sharp decline in politically civility.