Monday, September 8, 2008

Keith Unleashed: Is Olbermann Destroying NBC or Himself?

Remember when Olbermann was a Bristol funnyman? In the course of an election cycle, the former Sports Center anchor has gone from the future of NBC, to (just today) relegated to his own little cable domain after a series of bizarre on-and-off-the-air antics.

Let me paint the picture for you in light of the political hoopla surrounding the country and my own little observations of the station...

Last week I spent some time in Minneapolis-St. Paul covering the Republican National Convention for my "real job." (Big ups to Rand Ball & Mrs. Ran Ball for showing me about the Twin Cities, and allowing me to escape politics for a night).

My first day out there, I read in the local paper about a protester flop-house being raided, where buckets of urine, bows and arrows, Molotov cocktails and throwing knives (among other weaponry) was confiscated by authorities. Luckily, security was top-notch for convention-goers, despite reports of arrests and pandemonium.

But that doesn't mean that anyone not wearing hemp or patchouli shouldn't have been in fear - whether they were with the media, political or a mere observer. While delegates were treated to curb-side service, other attendees weren't always so lucky.

One evening following a session, I walked through nearby Rice Park, where, not only could protesters assemble and shout obscenities at you, but it's also where last-place cable news station, MSNBC, camped out its live, outdoor set. (Another interesting note: inside, MSNBC's suite was next to that of Al Jazeera. Say what you will, someone has a sense of humor).

Now, I never knew much of MSNBC's "Far-Left" reach. Yes, I heard about former ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann going bat shit about Bush (who doesn't do that nowadays?), but for the most part, it was his fist-pounding, anti-Hillary tirades that I heard about.

Come to find out, among GOPer's this distinction is common knowledge and Olbermann is their "worst person in the world."

So I decided to explore the studio space on this Olbermann character.

I thought back to something I read in June about his prima donna attitude and his perceived status at the station. It started upon the death of Tim Russert. From Page 6 (6/20/08):
Meanwhile, Matthews' MSNBC cable cohort Olbermann, who was also at the memorial, is "threatening to quit if he isn't installed as Russert's replacement," another insider said. "I know, it sounds ludicrous, but, then, Keith Olbermann is ludicrous."
At the convention, I picked up unapologetic Righy mag The Nation Review, if for nothing else this month's cover story, "Obama's Pet Peacock." It turned out to be heavily-focused on Olbermann's insanity, "Olbermann Broadcast Network."

If the temper tantrum about Big Russ' job had you chuckling (or scratching your head), check out the first lines of the NR article:
IN late October of last year, MSNBC moved its offices from Secaucus, N.J., to NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. "It was cool," one longtime MSNBC employee says of the move. "All these old offices with so much history ... you'd be walking around and someone would point out John Belushi's old office."

But one MSNBC employee wasn't happy with his office. According to two sources who worked for the network at the time, Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's Countdown, didn't like his door. It had a window. He wanted a solid one.

He called the building manager. "They told him, 'Look, it's an old building, we're not changing the doors,'" the longtime employee says. "So Keith calls [MSNBC president] Phil Griffin and says, 'I want a new door or I'm not going on the air tonight.' And so Phil went and got him a new door."

Because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets.
Moreover, in his quest to become the savior of the Left and up his own rockstar status, he is almost single-handedly destroying the credibility of NBC's entire news department.
Thus MSNBC's great leap leftward poses a big problem for NBC's news division. The traditional journalists at NBC News--guys like Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, and, until recently, Tim Russert--are said to be privately appalled by the way MSNBC's naked partisanship is rubbing off on NBC News, but on this matter they have been overruled. NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker recently told a conference of business students, "The definition of NBC News is really changing, and it's becoming more MSNBC and"

Here's what Zucker means: The number of viewers who watch Countdown each night (around a million) is still small compared with the number of viewers who watch the NBC Nightly News (around 8 million). But in 2007, MSNBC's primetime audience grew by 28 percent, while NBC Nightly News's declined by 13 percent...
Olbermann's rise has provoked mixed feelings from the journalists at NBC News. On one hand, Jeff Zucker, the president of the network, has publicly declared that MSNBC is the future of NBC News. Thus anyone who wants to have a future at NBC News has to learn to live with Olbermann and his brand of journalism. On the other hand, the more traditional journalists at the network hate Olbermann's way of doing business.
The piece goes on to quote insiders and look at the overall attitude and effect Olbermann has had on the NBC brand. And it was looking more and more like it was quickly becoming his-way-or-the-highway with the backing of key execs.

However, just when it looks like Olbermann had done the job for ABC/ESPN and sunk NBC, someone at the Peacock wised-up. From today's Broadcasting & Cable:
Keith Olbermann's and Chris Matthews' often-controversial tenure as co-anchors of MSNBC’s election coverage came to an end. Instead, David Gregory, NBC News’ chief White House correspondent, will anchor election night, the three presidential debates and the one vice-presidential debate.
No doubt this will infuriate Olbermann, and I expect he will threaten to quit (again) shortly. As of post-time, there is no mention of his demotion on either his Kos blog or his talking points, the last post, ironically is titled "Olbermann chastises McCain: Grow up!"

Oh Keith. Still the funnyman.

1 comment:

Ethanator1088 said...

Excellent write up. I heard he was doing some kind of football talk with Dan Patrick on Sunday Nights. As far as I am concerned, he can totally redeem himself if he is good on that show. :-)

If you have any time watch the Olbermann vs Oriely rants on Youtube.