March 25, 2013

In a fresh New Republic story, reporter Rebecca Dana profiles Phil Griffin, the boss of a surging MSNBC. It’s a sympathetic look at the network exec, complete with a detailed rundown of how he and others happened upon the programming identity that has captivated liberal Americans across the land.

One aspect of the piece that Griffin himself must adore is its disavowal of equivalence between MSNBC and cable top dog Fox News. Here’s how Dana makes the case that these outlets are distinct:

Still, MSNBC isn’t an instrument of the Democratic Party in the way that Fox is of the GOP. Ailes has a direct line to conservative politicians and considerable influence over them. Griffin may go to the odd White House Christmas party, but he’s not talking strategy with Valerie Jarrett. “We have much closer relationships with the administration than he does,” says Scarborough, who told me Obama surrogates contacted him after plenty of shows during the last campaign, often to complain.

The story goes on to point out that many MSNBC commentators attack the Obama administration from the left, on topics such as “drone warfare, indefinite detention, and relief for the financial sector.”

A few points of skepticism here:

1) Just because Griffin doesn’t hobnob with politicos doesn’t mean his network doesn’t push a certain perspective. He just hired Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, after all — a move that, as Dana writes, copies straight from the Fox News “tradition.”

2) The notion that Obama surrogates may have complained about coverage in last year’s campaign — that’s business as usual. That’s what surrogates do.

3) If attacking politicians from the extremes of the ideological spectrum validates a network’s independence, well then — Fox News is as independent as they come. During the last presidential contest, there was no shortage of commentary on Fox News’s air of folks wishing that Republicans would embrace authentic conservative principles.

More evidence necessary!

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.