On Keith Olbermann: Flamethrower and Talented
Since Keith Olbermann was the subject of at least a handful of columns I have posted on TMV, I feel compelled to add my two cents on his departure from MSNBC’s Countdown show.
Good luck and good night. It was a nightly sign off – he proudly parroted the great Edward R. Murrow during the heyday of television journalism at CBS.
Keith Olbermann was not even in the same ballpark as Murrow or Cronkite or Sevareid nor any of other early gods pioneering television broadcasts.
Rather, Olbermann was the new niche in the cable world. A flame thrower. A passionate advocate for liberal causes. A counter to the more ratings popular shtick to the conservative formatted Fox News.
During his nearly seven-year stint as anchor of MSNBC’s top rated nightly show, he was the face that tried but failed miserably in the numbers game. I could be wrong but some weeks his ratings were less than MSNBC’s canned prison shows they telecast every weekend ad nauseam.
But I admired Olbermann as at least making a concerted effort to get his facts correct and if he was wrong corrected the errors. How many times have we not heard from Fox commentators that they screwed up on basic facts? Rarely.
Olbermann’s problem was that his perception among hated and admiring viewers was undercut by his political opinions.
The man could be snarly on air which I disliked. He could be humorous which I admired. Some of his special comment diatribes were terrific; most were venomous.
Despite his personal demons — apparently they are legendary even for a broadcast super egomaniac — Olbermann was one talented journalist who knew his trade albeit delivering it with an attitude. Face it, that is the current trend in the cable news world.
What I never understood was Olbermann’s contractual arrangement that allowed him to take time off to watch his Yankees play, weeks of attending to his dying father and other inexplicable absences. All at a time he was in a ratings war during a dog-eat-dog competition with the networks’ rivals. Most of his subs were lightweights, an immediate turn off for me to CNN or Fox or an NCIS rerun.
I was rather amused at some of the reader comments that Olbermann had been fired from other broadcast assignments after making a “name” for himself on ESPN. All hell, guys, that’s the nature of the broadcast and many other professions. It’s either whims of the owners or produce the rain or get fired.
Olbermann is a victim of his own creation and the industry he serves. I have never accepted in today’s media market that the messenger is the star attraction and not the substance to which they are paid to deliver.
Frankly, I enjoyed most of Olbermann’s stints on his Countdown show. I probably was a loyal follower not so much of him but the dislike of his competition in his time slot.
Even in the last weeks when he toned down the “Worst Persons” segment of his show, I stayed tuned to see whom he was going to jibe for blatant stupidity or hypocrisy.
Unless he is a total crackpot, we should not rue where Olbermann lands after this latest gig of his. He’s too talented, too intelligent and too entertaining.