It was the kind of story that was made for cable news, involving religion, passionate debate, one of the most divisive issues in the nation, and at center of it all, the President of the United States.
But only two of the three cable news channels carried Pres. Obama’s address to the graduating class at the University of Notre Dame yesterday – CNN and Fox News. Even HLN, which doesn’t normally carry live events, aired the address for several minutes as it began.
Critics of MSNBC say this is an attempt by the network to paint Pres. Obama in a positive light, since the speech and Notre Dame’s awarding of the President an honorary degree, had been controversial from the start. In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, all the networks had been producing segments on it, some, through their own ideological prism.
So on Sunday, MSNBC chose to stick with its regularly scheduled programming of crime shows. At 3pmET, the hour of Obama’s speech, MSNBC was airing a Keith Morrison mystery called “Treasure Hunt.” MSNBC devoted 15 seconds to the story during a 30 update around 4:30pmET.
An MSNBC insider authorized to speak on the matter said, “We chose to remain with our regularly scheduled programming.” But others at MSNBC think the network should have interrupted programming. One tells TVNewser, “I think we should have taken it. We did all these stories on it, then to not air the speech? It’s like, are those crime shows that important.” Another says it’s rare for MSNBC to break in to weekend afternoon programming for anything other than breaking news. “It’s a skeleton staff on weekends,” says the insider.
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik has his own take on it:
As for MSNBC, they should get around to putting their A-Team on it Monday night when they can show their two chief ideologues, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, making faces and heaping scorn on their political opponents on the right. That’s low-rent talk radio with a camera, not work worthy of a national news channel.