In recent weeks, we have seen many political stories emerge. There is a program above all others that has reported these stories. The show is called “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” and the man delivering the news is Keith Olbermann. Olbermann is taking an approach to reporting the news that has not been seen since the days of Edward R. Murrow, the man who took on Senator Joseph McCarthy.
In order to describe this type of reporting and its significance, one must first look at the cases that have been reported on. To be more efficient, I will only discuss one story in particular, which came about last week. The story centered on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
On the evening of Nov. 27, Gingrich attended a dinner in New Hampshire honoring the First Amendment. At the dinner, Gingrich suggested that we, the people of the United States, need to give up some of our freedom of speech. The next night, Olbermann delivered a report about this statement that included a discussion with constitutional law expert and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. In the report, Olbermann delivered only the facts and asked for the expert’s opinion on those facts.
This alone is something for which Olbermann should be applauded. It represents a type of reporting that the overly corporate networks NBC, ABC, CBS and right-wing biased FOX refuse to deliver; however, there is something that he does that has impressed me even more.
In what has become an almost weekly routine, Olbermann dedicates the last segment of his show to making a special comment about a big story.
Two days after delivering the news about Gingrich, Olbermann delivered a special comment regarding that story. It is in that special comment that you truly see the style of reporting I refer to (a style that Murrow practiced).
The style is simple – take the facts, form an opinion on those facts and deliver the opinion using the facts in your favor. In the same way that Murrow took down McCarthy, Olbermann proceeded to roast Gingrich. Olbermann used the facts to point out how Gingrich was exploiting the situation by quoting Gingrich himself (Fortune Magazine Interview): “I am not ‘running’ for president,” and then continued, “I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen.”
To these statements, Olbermann replied, “What a dark place your world must be, Mr. Gingrich, where the way to save America is to destroy America. I will awaken every day of my life thankful I am not with you in that dark place. And I will awaken every day of my life thankful that you are entitled to tell me about it. And that you are entitled to show me what an evil idea it represents and what a cynical mind. And that you are entitled to do all that, thanks to the very freedoms you seek to suffocate.”
It is in this and other statements he made throughout his comment regarding free speech that we see the true spirit of Edward R. Murrow. In these statements, Olbermann demonstrates the very ideal that Murrow established about reporting the news.
The message is: deliver the facts and then deliver a clear opinion of the facts without fear of what others may think. Following Murrow’s example, Olbermann delivers his opinions with great clarity and eloquence, as well as a fire that is unmistakable. I applaud Olbermann for his willingness to do this style of reporting, which often takes on an unpopular and almost always controversial view of the facts.
Olbermann is one who has decided to become the modern version of Edward R. Murrow.
I know that it is no accident that Olbermann ended his comment on free speech with Murrow’s trademark ending (the one with which he ended all his shows), “Good night and good luck.”
Gillenson is a member of the class of 2010.