It comes as no huge shock to hear that the on-air bickering that has characterized MSNBC's coverage of the Democratic convention has carried over into behind-the-scenes tension and backbiting. The reports poured in last night. Politico quoted a "high-ranking journalist" who said "the situation at our channel is about to blow up." Jossip reported that both staff and top brass believe network host Keith Olbermann is way out of bounds in bashing other anchors. And the Wall Street Journal quotes former MSNBC host Connie Chung thusly: "Grow up! They have to just grow up." Whose fault is all this? Probably MSNBC chief Phil Griffin, whose staff (judging from all the reports) have a hard a time trusting. Well, he is the fellow who keeps rather ridiculously insisting MSNBC isn't becoming the left-wing Fox News. But the Journal has found another guilty party: Tim Russert, who had to go and die:
The sudden death this summer of NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, who made frequent appearances on MSNBC, removed a political and temperamental rudder for the network. Mr. Griffin has tried to fill the power vacuum since, struggling to shepherd the network's big personalities through a period of transition.
"Struggling" is putting it mildly. The Democratic convention should be a crowning moment for the resurgent cable news network, which has otherwise been an also-ran since its founding 12 years ago. A little sparring would be one thing; conflict can goose ratings, even when it's wantonly self-indulgent.
But this is just a mess. Host Chris Matthews has oscillated wildly between cranky scolding of his coworkers and obsequious near-groveling to the Hillary Clinton supporters who detest him. Both of Joe Scarborough's high-profile rants were too long and tiresome to add spice. And half of what Olbermann says seems to end up on microphone accidentally. Now even shiny new anchor Rahel Maddow is being drawn into the muck (Jossip reports some staff demand she be more of an Olbermann partisan).
MSNBC needs more yelling (at misbehaving anchors) off the air and less yelling on it. Unless this fighting sends ratings through the roof. In that case, by all means, continue.
(Disclaimer: The man in the lower right corner of the graphic is NOT and should NOT be confused with an MSNBC anchor. He is instead House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and thus at a total loss to understand the horrific partisan bickering and vicious palace intrigue going on around him. Any suggestion that Rep. Hoyer is an MSNBC anchor or otherwise emotionally unstable or sociopathically antisocial is unintentional and accidental. In fact, Gawker apologizes, in advance, for not blurring his photo or something.)