MSNBC news anchor: What this network needs is an "I am Other" message

An instant classic via Noah Rothman. Only on MSNBC, only on MSNBC would you find someone ostensibly on the “news” side of the operation complaining on air that his network isn’t aggressive enough in pushing an agenda. I wonder which parts of their programming he thinks are presently deficient in identifying with the Other. “Morning Joe” is hosted by a Republican (a centrist, independent-leaning one), so let’s grant him that one for argument’s sake. Who else? Chris Hayes? O’Donnell?

Two punchlines. One: No one but no one Other-izes its political opponents as crudely and zestily as MSNBC does. You don’t even need to get to their primetime line-up to see that; consult our archive of Bashir and Matthews clips if you’ve got a few days to spare. (If you want to throw Olbermann in there as part of a longstanding pattern, you’ll need weeks.) In fact, the parent company was so eager to Other-ize George Zimmerman, it’s staring at a defamation suit. Rest assured, tea partiers will remain quasti-terrorist “teabaggers” even in a newly Other-friendly MSNBC. Two: Speaking of Zimmerman, the network went all in on trial coverage in hopes of goosing its deflating ratings with a morality play full of Larger Truths about “the Other” aimed at electrifying liberal viewers. Here’s what they got for that on Saturday night when the verdict was read:

In the 10-11 p.m. hour on Saturday night, when the verdict in, Fox News had 3,682,000 total viewers; CNN had 3,407,000 total viewers and won the coveted demo with 1,716,000 viewers aged 25-to-54.

In the same hour, MSNBC had 1,298,000 total viewers — about one-third of Fox’s total — and a mere 510,000 viewers in the demo. (These are preliminary numbers; finals are in tomorrow.)

Despite branding itself as “the place for politics,” MSNBC went wall-to-wall on the Zimmerman trial after watching its ratings tank in recent months. It doesn’t seemed to have helped.

I don’t understand that last bit. They went wall to wall on Zimmerman not in spite of being “the place for politics” but because of it. Their interest in it was purely political, not legal and certainly not factual. I’m honestly surprised they did as badly as they did. They’re not a place for breaking news anymore, as their own chief admits, but they treated this whole thing less as “news” and more as a sort of referendum on race relations in America. You would think their audience would be there as the returns finally came in.

Having said all of that, I don’t think news anchors should be discouraged from talking this way. The guy’s being honest about his and his network’s agenda, and that’s creditable. There’s an old saying that news media is supposed to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted; not so — they’re supposed to tell the truth, even if it means afflicting the comfortable — but if you’re going to follow the activist blueprint, own it. He’s owning it. Would you rather he lied?