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MSNBC Maybe Shouldn't Neglect Background Checks

When I heard that FOX News had become the ratings leader among cable news networks with their claim of âfair and balancedâ coverage, I predicted that FOXâs competitors would soon be rolling out their own conservative voices in hopes of getting their own slice of the pie. But I must admit, my eyebrows went up a few inches when MSNBC hired Michael Savage back in March to do a weekend show.

Not that I was completely opposed to the idea, mind you. The more content the news networks air that is clearly labeled as opinion, the less time they have to fill by coming up with creative new ways to describe the same six stories, such as reporting rumors and hearsay as fact. But Michael Savage? The guy is right wing radioâs version of Howard Stern. Making blunt and controversial statements to get a rise out of his audience is his whole schtick.

So I was less than surprised to learn that Savage was hastily sacked on Monday, after only four months on the air, for calling one of his callers a sodomite and suggesting that he âget AIDS and die.â The question is, what exactly did MSNBC think was going to happen? Savage says worse to his radio callers on a daily basis. Didnât anybody at MSNBC Human Resources bother to listen to his show for a half hour before hiring him? With crack research like that, itâs not surprising that people are now inherently suspicious of any televised news coverage.

The other possibility is that MSNBC knew damn well when they hired Savage that something like this was bound to happen. In which case, arenât they at least partially responsible for his comments? And if MSNBCâs way of making their news coverage more âbalancedâ is by countering it with the rantings of hyperconservative nutballs, doesnât that imply that thereâs something pretty seriously screwed up with their coverage to begin with?

Hey cable news networks! If you want to distinguish yourself from the rest of your ilk and crank up your ratings share in the process, try objective reporting and checking your facts. Until you do, when I want accurate news coverage, Iâll stick with The New York Times.


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