On Howard Kurtz’s Reliable Sources yesterday, discussion turned to the chummy relationship between MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan and the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. E-mail traffic shows that Ratigan, in addition to giving the protests nice coverage on the air, has assisted a bit in honing the group’s message. In one missive, he wrote:

“The focus on simple shared principle and intent to align with all who agree with that principle is a unique strength.”

That prompted this question from Kurtz: “Would the media coverage have been different if this had been a host of Fox News caught having e-mails with the Tea Party?”

Kurtz’s Reliable Sources panel appeared to think so.

Said NewsHour special correspondent Terence Smith:

“His only defense is that he’s a commentator, really — an entertainer and not a news deliverer, and that’s not much of a defense.”

Kurtz concluded by saying, "I don’t see him as an entertainer at all.”

Ratigan’s mistake was e-mail. Why get cozy with the protesters via clandestine means when you can do the same thing on air? If Ratigan wants to give the protesters advice and succor, then do so — on the program. If he wants to edit the OWS mission statement or otherwise pitch in, then do so — again, on the program. That way, he serves up transparency and controversial television in the same breath. Just what MSNBC wants.

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