On Friday, January 21, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann announced on his "Countdown" program that it would be his last one and that "all that surrounded the show – but never the show itself – was just too much for me." http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/olbermann-hosts-last-countdown-on-msnbc/
MSNBC responded with a terse announcement "MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors." http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/olbermann-hosts-last-countdown-on-msnbc/
What the announcement left out was the massive sigh of relief from the MSNBC and NBC News brass. Olbermann might have led the news network to huge ratings gains, passing CNN as number two behind Fox News and crafted a long-needed focus as the liberal answer to the right-wing rantings of Fox News, but he was a constant thorn in MSNBC's management's side.
His bloviating was as uncivil and biased on the left as his nemesis, Bill O'Reilly, and others on Fox News were on the right. Olbermann was smarter, his arguments better reasoned, and his writing at times bordered on brilliant, but he was too often over the top, venomous, and, certainly, uncivil.
After the shooting tragedy in Tucson, Olbermann as much as admitted his excesses by suspending his "Worst Person in the World" segment temporarily, much like Fox News boss Roger Ailes did when he asked the Fox News personalities to "tone it down."
Olbermann's departure reinforces the fact that what self-absorbed, narcissistic opinionators such as Olbermann, O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh are all about is themselves. They are entertainers who have dreams of grandiosity, fame, and, most of all, wealth.
They think they can do no wrong. They never question their beliefs, opinions, or facts. They think the world revolves around them, like the Church before Galileo believed that the sun and planets revolved around the Earth. They will do or say anything to get attention (which translates into ratings, and, thus, into money). They know that in America today, the best way to get attention is to be outrageous, angry, and uncivil.
MSBNC is well served that Olbermann is gone. It can now be more reasonable, more civil. It can re-craft its image to being a balanced, fair news source consistent with the reputation of NBC News. Their on-air personalities such as Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, and Ed Schultz can focus on the issues instead of wasting time publicly brawling with Bill O'Reilly, which does nothing so much as increase O'Reilly's already large ratings.
I'm sure there are no tears at MSNBC or at Comcast, which will own NBC Universal as of January 28, over Olbermann's departure. I'll bet they're saying, "Good riddance."
Until he retired in 2002, Charlie Warner was Vice President of AOL's Interactive Marketing division. Before joining AOL, he was the Goldenson Endowed Professor at the Missouri Journalism School where he taught media management and sales, and he created and ran the annual Management Seminar for News Executives. Charlie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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