Mainstream Blog Pioneer Alterman Axed by MSNBC

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Eric Alterman, perhaps the first writer to get a blog on a mainstream national news site, has been dismissed after 10 years by MSNBC.com.

“P.S., I?m Fired,” he heads an email to others in the media.

His blog, Altercation, however, will be picked up by the liberal site Media Matters. He will also become a senior fellow there. Alterman has also been a longtime columnist at The Nation magazine. He teaches at City University of New York.

“I was hired before the 1996 launch by both the website and the cable station, and while the latter association ended in 1998, I have been here at MSNBC.com for ten straight years, writing a column until 2002 and Altercation every day, ever since,” he writes. “Permit me to point out that with the help of my contributors and co-Altercators, I?ve probably contributed more words to this site than any other person, including full-time staff. Well, ten years is a good run at anything.”

Alterman noted that when he started, others, such as Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan, already had popular blogs but they had not yet been adopted by larger news organizations.

“As for MSNBC.com, I want to say that my experience working with my editors, past and present, has been an unbroken and unblemished blessing,” he concludes. “It may sound amazing in the context of the online world but until I learned of my dismissal a few weeks ago, I had no idea whatever how many hits this site received. Nobody ever asked me to deal with a topic on Altercation, much less to stay away from one. And of course, all mistakes were my own.

“Whether my termination is, in fact, a product of a political decision at GE/NBC, which according to reports I read and gossip I hear, has lately taken a much firmer hand in guiding the content of both MSNBC and MSNBC.com, I have no way of knowing…. It would surprise no one if this site caused some discomfort at 30 Rock, if and when they happen to notice it. But speculation is not the same thing as evidence, and the good folks MSNBC.com and GE/NBC can, I?m sure, give you good reasons why dumping Altercation is the right thing to do from a business standpoint– though the natural speculation that arises is a damn good argument against the kind of media concentration that allows a company like GE to own NBC in the first place.

“And few decisions in life have only one inspiration, alas. All I can say for sure is that I remain profoundly grateful for the opportunity they gave me and depart with nothing but feelings of warmth and gratitude for my colleagues who made it possible.”

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