I basically agree with the standard liberal take on MSNBC’s decision to boot Keith Olbermann from anchoring duties during major political events — see Greenwald — but as Atrios observes “he makes Tom Brokaw uncomfortable.” And much as we may not like this, it’s worth appreciating that MSNBC’s in a really problematic spot not just because of Brokaw but because of the broader tie to NBC News.
I think they’re recognizing at MSNBC with the success of Countdown and the looming Rachel Maddow show that the smart move for the network is to become a progressive-friendly alternative to a cable news landscape dominated by Glen Beck and Sean Hannity. At the same time, however, MSNBC is necessarily going to be a little brother to NBC News. But while progressive branding is smart for MSNBC, it’s not smart for NBC’s Nightly News or for Meet The Press. But on big occasions, MSNBC wants to be able to take advantage of high-profile NBC News personalities. This sets them up for a lot of dilemmas that wouldn’t exist for a cable news channel like Fox News or CNN that doesn’t serve as a co-branded junior partner to a broadcast news operation.