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If the head of NBC News has to hastily and defensively rationalize the difference between journalism and opinion programming to his own staffers (which he did in a conference call last Friday), is it any wonder why the public’s trust of media is so low?

So many of journalism’s problems are self-inflicted. Including this latest one.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is leaving the Biden Administration to take a job at MSNBC. But she hasn’t left yet.

Yeah, that’s a problem.

Sure, Psaki has every right to move anywhere she wants to. But she should have stepped down from her White House position the instant she accepted MSNBC’s offer. This is pretty basic.

The appearance of even a temporary conflict of interest is troubling, and serves the interests of neither the American people nor the media.

So here’s how NBC News President Noah Oppenheim tried to babble his way out of this. When staffers expressed their concern and even alarm about the Psaki hiring, Oppenheim told them that they needed to understand the difference between the NBC News core brand and the “opinion arm” of MSNBC content. Psaki, he said, will host an opinion show on the MSNBC’s streaming “Peacock” platform. He told the staffers not to worry about it and just keep doing their jobs.

Then Oppenheim tried to further wash his hands by saying he had nothing to do with the Psaki hiring on MSNBC. It is true that Oppenheim does not oversee MSNBC, a role that has been filled for the past year by former NBC News Vice President Rashida Jones.

Jones has made no secret of her efforts to steer MSNBC toward more “opinion arm,” and “perspective” content. OK. MSNBC has every right to run its business.

But here’s the rub. Even as MSNBC increasingly becomes an “opinion” outlet with a particular and obvious political and social orientation, NBC News journalists continue appear on the cable network.

That’s not fair to those journalists. Their work naturally gets associated with the over-arching philosophy of MSNBC, making them “guilty by association” in the eyes of many news consumers and inevitably extending and reinforcing public perception of “media bias.”

There is absolutely a place, and even a need, for opinion-based content. What the hell do you think this very website is?

It’s the blurring of the lines and the absence of truth in labeling that fuels public mistrust.

Unforced error. So many of journalism’s problems are self-inflicted.

And for now, we have Jen Psaki attempting to serve two masters, and failing both.

I regard Psaki as an able person with a facile mind. She will do a good job for MSNBC in the role that is being carved out for her. I also think she has done a good job as White House Press Secretary, particularly when her performance is contrasted with that of the clown parade that occupied that role in the Trump Administration.

But particularly now, as we are in an extremely perilous time, the last thing we need is a short-timing presidential press secretary whose current point of focus can be rightly questioned.

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Paul's Bio

I clearly have the attention span of your median fruit fly.Look! Airplane!

Sorry. I’m back.

It’s both a curse and a blessing. I’ve never bought this stuff about, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But I do think that a wide range of life experiences helps us grow as people, and helps us better relate to other people. I’ve been fortunate. And I am beyond grateful.

I show up on time. I go like hell. I’m a good listener. I hold myself accountable. I own my mistakes. And I have a natural and an insatiable curiosity. I’m never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t. But then I try to find out.

The flip side is I’m a lousy ballroom dancer and my clothes sometimes fit me funny.

Stuff matters to me. I care. But while I take that stuff seriously, I try hard to never take myself seriously. As a result, I have sometimes been told, “Paul, it’s hard to tell when you’re serious and when you’re just having some fun. Which is it? Serious or fun?”

My answer is “yes.” But I think that is a legitimate criticism. I promise I’m going to work on that.

This has been the quickest and strangest half-century I’ve ever experienced. During that period, I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities in news and sports journalism across all platforms. I have taught wonderful students at the high school and collegiate level. Always, I learned more from them than they did from me. I’ve been a high school administrator. I spent ten seasons as a high school varsity football coach. I’ve been an advertising executive. I’ve hosted nationally syndicated television entertainment shows. In maybe the biggest honor I ever received, I was selected by NASA to be “Chet The Astronaut” for the “Land The Shuttle” simulator at Space Center Houston. (All I can say there, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” I put that thing in the Everglades more often than not.) Most recently, I just wrapped up a decade as a television news director, during which time our teams distinguished themselves in holding the powerful accountable, achieving both critical and ratings success.

What does all that mean? It means I am profoundly grateful. It also means I’m ready for “next.” So here we are. Radically Rational. It’s an idea I woke up with in 2017. I scribbled “Radically Rational” on a piece of notebook paper and used a magnet to stick it on our refrigerator. I saw it every day, and it just would not leave me alone.

I am second in charge at Radically Rational, LLC. My wife, Jo (also known as BB), is the president. Clearly, I have failed in my attempt to sleep my way to the top of this organization.

I hope you will learn that I’m loyal as a Labrador. But I will admit that this doggie can bite every now and then. My promise to you? I will show up on time. I will go like hell. I will listen to you earnestly and attentively. I will hold myself accountable. I will never be the least bit hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t.

But then I’ll try to find out. Let’s do it.