It’s Awkward for NBC When MSNBC Tells the Truth

The New York Times has a news piece today (11/6/12) reporting that MSNBC is just like Fox News, and isn’t that awful.

Now, MSNBC, for all its flaws, is not really anything like Fox News. And most of Times reporter Jeremy Peters‘ evidence for their similarity comes from a Pew study of “positive” and “negative” news coverage–the kind of study that will only be meaningful after someone comes up with an objective scale for measuring how positive or negative reality is.

Rachel Maddow/photo by JD Lasica

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (JD Lasica)

But I was struck by this anecdotal example of the Fox-like “partisan bitterness” supposedly on display on MSNBC:

In her ad, Rachel Maddow breathlessly decodes the logic behind the push to overhaul state voting laws. “The idea is to shrink the electorate,” she says, “so a smaller number of people get to decide what happens to all of us.”

Such stridency has put NBC News journalists who cover Republicans in awkward and compromised positions, several people who work for the network said.

Now, if you’ve been following the voter ID story at all closely, you know there’s no evidence of any organized voter impersonation on any kind of scale at all–that these laws will make it harder for millions of people to vote in an ostensible effort to stop a handful of people from cheating. So the obvious conclusion is–that the idea is to shrink the electorate. (This intention can also be seen, by the way, in the coordinated GOP efforts to curtail early voting.)

You can see how it might make it awkward for reporters if their pundit colleagues are analyzing reality too accurately. It’s obviously much easier for journalists covering Republicans if everyone at their network pretends the party is telling the truth about its concerns about voter fraud.

You know who else would have made it awkward for NBC to cover Republicans if he had worked as a pundit for MSNBC? Conservative movement pioneer Paul Weyrich:

I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.