THE BLOG
09/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MSNBC to Continue Allowing a Corporate Spokesman On Air as a "Political Analyst"

As a follow up to my post this morning, note that MSNBC just announced that it will continue promoting paid corporate PR consultant Richard Wolffe as a disinterested nonpartisan "political analyst." The network says it will disclose his employment with Public Strategies, but that it will continue using him as its "political analyst."

This is pretty gross. Sure, it's better that they give the audience some shred of disclosure, but they're not going to tell the audience which corporate clients he works for. More importantly, even with disclosure, MSNBC is effectively endorsing the concept of a paid corporate PR consultant appearing on television as a disinterested "political analyst" -- a concept that is so completely antithetical to the most basic respect for journalism ethics.

I mean, are we really to believe there is such a dearth of actual, independent political analysts out there that the network is all but compelled to use a paid corporate PR consultant? Are we really to believe that people like Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald -- just to name a few off the top of my head -- aren't as qualified as Wolffe? Apparently so.

What would have been appropriate is for MSNBC to say they are not having on Richard Wolffe or any other paid corporate PR consultant in any capacity other than as a paid corporate PR consultant -- and certainly not as a nonpartisan disinterested "political analyst." That might have let the world know MSNBC was serious about a minimal respect for journalism ethics. Instead, the network has endorsed the opposite.

Make no mistake: I appreciate MSNBC providing something of an ideological counterweight to Fox News. And as I mentioned before, we have evidence that there are clearly people at MSNBC like Rachel Maddow who understand that disrespecting basic journalism ethics is an insult to the audience and the journalism profession. Unfortunately, those people don't appear to be making the network-wide decisions -- and this particular decision, regardless of it coming from a liberal network, is an insult to journalism.

Indeed, MSNBC's message to journalists and journalism organizations that take great pains/financial risks to avoid conflicts of interest and preserve their own independence/credibility is that those efforts are a waste because the network will happily give its airwaves to those with the most egregious conflicts of interest.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald has a must-read update to his original post here. Check it out.