Friday, February 25, 2005

Olbermann - Why I stopped blogging about politics so much

Why I stopped blogging about politics
Keith Olbermann

SECAUCUS - So much. The title should really read “Why I stopped blogging about politics so much.”

Something happened in December from which I’m just cooling down. It represents all the worst byproducts of this useful new form of media, and it underscores that we’re all going to have to figure out how to address them or the blogosphere will succumb to Global Warming long before the planet will.

On December 27th, we got an email from the lead lawyer for John Kerry in Ohio, Daniel J. Hoffheimer (remember him? It seems like only yesterday…) cautioning reporters “not to read more into” what the Kerry-Edwards campaign had just said about the authenticity of the election. “There are many allegations of fraud. But this presidential election is over. The Bush-Cheney ticket has won.” We ran several quotes from the email on Countdown that night, and more here on the blog.

Now, we can debate the merits of the email, and whether or not Senator Kerry’s people tantalized some of their supporters in the weeks after the election by first saying what seemed to be election-challenging things, and then saying “no, we didn’t mean thaaat.” But we can’t debate who Daniel Hoffheimer was, nor his standing in the Kerry camp, nor the fact that I wouldn’t get very far if I just made the news up every day, including quotations and even entire people.

Stop it. Stop that Fox joke you were thinking of.

Nonetheless, I got an email that night from a woman who identified herself only as Alexandra, who insisted “something clearly has happened to your coverage. Looks like ‘bait and switch’ to me… your quote (was that really true???) from the Kerry attorney saying they believed Bush really won (no fraud???) is so far fetched, I may as well have been listening to Karl Rove or Scott McClellan…”

Remembering the countless nerves frayed in the preceding two months, I replied gently to Ms. Alexandra, forwarding her Hoffheimer’s email.

The next afternoon she was back. “Can someone get a statement DIRECTLY from Kerry’s office that ‘Hoffmeier’ (sic) is INDEED his attorney? No one’s heard his name before (though maybe Bush/Cheney lawyers, or Karl Rove might have a clue)…”

As Charlie Brown used to say, arrrgh!

I sent Alexandra the name of Hoffheimer’s firm and suggested she check him out herself, and noted again that I wouldn’t get very far just making this stuff up out of whole cloth. Even the nutbags at both far ends of the political spectrum get called on that.

What wore me out, of course, was the idea that because I was presenting news that a viewer didn’t like, I had to have sold out to one party or another, and/or fabricated it. The woman presumed that I had created a fictional character, was stupid enough to quote him on national television, and was guilty of both these crimes and had to get a note from John Kerry that I wasn’t making it up.

If this is the ultimate impact of the blog on the MSM, we’re only going to have a newscast once every few months. We’ll be spending the intervening time preparing the footnotes and the affidavits.

This wasn’t the first complaint email I’d ever gotten, but it was the first out of hundreds of similar tone that actually reminded me of the late Senator Moynihan’s observation that we can all have our own opinions, but we can’t all have our own facts.

I’ll get over it. I hope Alexandra found Mr. Hoffheimer and that they’re very happy together.

And I should tell you that I’m still getting an e-mail or two a day from those individuals over at James Dobson’s Focus On The Family who are apparently just getting the memo. This is the “SpongeBob SquarePants” controversy from a month ago (you know, the one Bill O’Reilly said last week that he stopped, and “saved” SpongeBob). The writers continue to miss the point, and more importantly, to underscore how Dr. Dobson missed the boat on which area has long truly needed his tub-thumping and fervor. He should’ve founded something called Focus On The School System.

originally published February 22, 2005 | 12:54 p.m. ET