Olbermann on Koppel Op-Ed: ‘The Kind of Television Journalism He Eulogizes, Failed this Country’

By Alex Weprin 

In a special comment last night, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann addressed Ted Koppel’s op-ed in the Washington Post last week. Olbermann praised journalists like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, not for their objectivity, but for when they used their intellect to pursue truth-even if it rankled partisans or politicians.

The great change about which Mr. Koppel wrings his hands is not partisanship nor tone nor analysis. The great change was the creation of the sanitized mage of what men like Cronkite and Murrow and Kaltenborn and Davis and Daly and Baukhage and Smith and Sevareid and Rather and Jennings and Polk nd Koppel did.


These were not glorified stenographers. These were not neutral men. These were men who did in their day what the best of journalists still try to do in this one. Evaluate, analyze, unscramble, assess — put together a coherent picture, or a challenging question — using only the facts as they can best be discerned, plus their own honesty and conscience.

Olbermann went on to criticize Koppel for how he and many of his colleagues covered the lead-up to the war in Iraq. Update: Also, Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly weighs in on Koppel, after the jump.

And Olbermann on the lead-up to the war in Iraq:

The bitter irony that must some day occur to Mr. Koppel and the others of his time was that their choice to not look too deeply into Iraq, before or after it began, was itself just as evaluative, just as analytically-based, just as subjective as anything I say or do here each night.

I may ultimately be judged to have been wrong in what I am doing. Mr. Koppel does not have to wait. The kind of television journalism he eulogizes, failed this country because when truth was needed, all we got were facts most of which were lies anyway. The journalism failed, and those who practiced it failed, and Mr. Koppel failed.