Friday, July 22, 2011

Cenk Uygur out at MSNBC

I did know Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks until I saw him on an early afternoon MSNBC show. Turns out he was too hot for them to handle since he actually sees journalism as an important exercise in accountability for those in power. Apparently, the mainstream media has no stomach for that these days. Transparency, questions, analysis, fact-checking, confrontation: all of these are hopelessly unfashionable and uncomfortable for the elite, even as Cenk demonstrates clearly, it draws ratings and is good for business. MSNBC executives don’t want to win their time slot and cultivate real audiences at the cost of making any well-placed friends hot under the collar.

According to Glenn Greenwald over at Salon, wha’ ha’ happen was:

Uygur often refused to treat members of the political and media establishment with deference and respect. He didn’t politely imply with disguised subtleties when he thought a politician or media figure was lying or corrupt, but instead said it outright. In interviews, he was sometimes unusually aggressive with leading Washington figures, subjecting them to civil though hostile treatment to which they were plainly unaccustomed.

Uygur explained that, several months ago, he was summoned to a meeting with MSNBC boss Phil Griffin and told that while it is fun and enjoyable to be an “outsider,” that is not what MSNBC is for. Instead, Griffin told him, MSNBC is “part of the establishment,” and Uygur must conduct himself in accordance with that reality. It’s perfectly fine in establishment discourse to express contempt for one of the two political parties. It’s equally fine to periodically criticize your own. But what is most assuredly not fine — particularly in a high-profile nighttime spot and without having a real power base that comes from mammoth ratings — is to be aggressively adversarial to the political establishment itself and the financial interests that fund, own and control that political system. That is what Uygur was, and while there’s no evidence that this was the primary cause of his removal, it was clearly a serious source of dissatisfaction with the station’s executives, including MSNBC’s chief.

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