Between the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday, it has been a humdinger of a week for TV news. For those of us who follow both football and politics, it has been gut-wrenching in either fantastic or heartbreaking ways. But in this whirligig of a political climate in the era of live and up-to-the-millisecond coverage, it should only be expected that someone should screw up.
MSNBC's David Shuster screwed up. Despite the praise laid upon Chelsea Clinton by Shuster right before he called her a prostitute for her mother's presidential campaign, this was a sloppy, irresponsible move. He knows it, and he has apologized, but he deserved to be suspended by MSNBC - though not fired. I have a complicated relationship with MSNBC as a female viewer. While I think my favorite cable news channel really is THE place for politics, I hate that women are under-represented in prime time, but I really cringe when my trusted and beloved anchors say stupid, chauvinistic things. Not because I expect these men to be angels, but because for the majority of the time, they are simply better than this.
While Shuster really got his start digging into the Clinton White House for Fox News Channel, the David Shuster that I know and love relentlessly dug into the Bush White House, especially during the CIA leak case. This was when I became a fan.
But lately, as Shuster has been allowed more screen time, it is more than a little apparent that he could be gunning for his own show. If that's the case, he may have had support - at least until now. This Clinton gaffe is just bush league (pun intended). It's the stuff of Shuster's former employer and the people for which they shill, the people (among them a current presidential candidate) who made their living in the 1990s bullying an awkward teenage girl. I said before that I don't expect my anchors to be angels. But I do expect them to be responsible journalists while on the air. Right-wing blowhards barely qualify as broadcasters, let alone journalists, reporters or anchors. But MSNBC, David Shuster and every other on-air personality are better off above this fray. Mistakes of fact are one thing; they can be corrected. But when it comes to seedy invective as used by Shuster and others, remember that you're a journalist! When you're off the air and goofing around the office or the pub after work, say whatever you please. But when you're on the air, and people are looking to you for sound political analysis from every angle, remember how many people want to trust you.
Be like my team - the Giants. There were a lot of times, especially during the fourth quarter, that we could have screwed up and given the Patriots the "told you so" victory they wanted so badly. Instead, the Giants focused, and brought their A-game in the tensest, craziest moments that mattered the most. Could we have let our guard down in the last 2:30 on the clock? Sure. Could Eli have been sacked, preventing that purely magical pass to David Tyree? Yes. Could Tyree have dropped that ball, giving it back to the Pats and denying Plaxico Burress our winning touchdown with just about 30 seconds left? Yes. Could our defense have been inches away from preventing two Patriots touchdowns in the last seconds of the most watched Super Bowl EVER? Yes. But it didn't happen. The underdogs, who emerged as serious contenders, became champions.
MSNBC is still the underdog in the ratings, even though it shows more and more potential. This political season is the last 2:30 of your fourth quarter. Except when it's over and you announce our new president in November, you won't be done. You'll simply be better - but only if you keep the dirty plays and the verbal diarrhea in the locker room and off the field.