What's The Journalistic Upside To Political Analysts?

What do you want from your TV news network?  Original journalism that brings good news, bad news, opinions you like and don’t like? 

Ideally, you’d want it all. Then the viewer will decide what’s important or not, what’s right or wrong.

But much research says many TV viewers look for information that builds upon their already predisposed beliefs on certain subjects; people that agree with our views.

For many, that is why we have sharply different-sounding TV news networks: Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC --- as well as traditional TV and digital platforms.

To help fill up the airwaves of your favorite TV outlets, especially for politics, many networks hire scores of “political analysts,” former political figures -- existing legislators, lobbyists, pollsters, and the rest -- who get paid by the networks.

Many of those hired are just “freelancers” of sort -- independent contractors -- not exactly wedded to any organization, news or otherwise.



This is where we come to Donna Brazile, the interim chairwoman of the Democratic Party and a longtime paid political analyst CNN. She and the network recently parted ways after it was discovered she may have leaked some possible questions to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for CNN-sponsored candidate events/debates.

Here’s the problem: Brazile isn’t a journalist, and neither are many of those political analysts who make regular appearances on cable TV networks. And in that regard, if someone were to leak information obtained while working for a TV news organization -- to a political party -- that person may not realize they walked into a minefield, journalistically speaking.

Key in all this is TV networks paying for “on-air talent.” And here is where you have what Dafna Linzer, managing editor for politics at MSNBC, in speaking to The New York Times, calls an “ethical conflict zone.”

Perhaps TV news networks need to be clearer about what on-air political analysts can and can’t say about information obtained while on the job.

Maybe they need a lesson in how journalism works -- and what their responsibilities once they join its ranks.

What’s at stake? Since the first of the year, Fox News Channel has pulled in $924 million in national advertising, according to; CNN, $748.9 million; and MSNBC, $209.5 million.

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