Per the New York Times, MSNBC’s “bold experiment…putting two politically incendiary hosts, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, in the anchor chair to lead the cable news channel’s coverage of the election” “appears to be over.” David Gregory, NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host, will anchor “news coverage of the coming debates and election night” and Olbermann and Matthews “will remain as analysts during the coverage.”

The Times’ cites Olbermann’s reaction to the 9/11 video at the Republican convention last week — “Mr. Olbermann abruptly took off his journalistic hat” and deemed the video “probably not appropriate” — as evidence of a “blur[ring]” of the news/commentary line at MSNBC.

Olbermann told the Times: “I found it ironic and instructive that I could have easily said exactly what I did say, exactly when I did say it, if I had been wearing a different hat, and nobody would have taken any issue.”

What of viewers? How will what looks like a neat and tidy (re)adjustment from MSNBC’s point of view (ok, “experiment” over, back to one head, one hat around here — and for Matthews and Olbermann, that’s the analyst hat, not the anchor/straight news hat) translate for viewers? Will confusion persist? Will viewers even notice, if they’re still getting “analysis” from Olbermann and Matthews alongside “straight reporting” from Gregory?

Once blurred, can “the line” really be un-blurred?


Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.