Christy Matthews, and Olbermann Spanked

I had such high regard for MSNBC and Keith Olbermann just over a year ago.   It was a great network, with great guests.   A whos who every night it seemed came on to interviewd on the various shows.  More importantly, the subject mattered more than the people.

This election cycle has trashed MSNBC as personal bias, sexism, and unprofessionalism have been the order of the day.  Not just among the hosts, but the regular commentators as well.  

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MSNBC Pulls Matthews and Olbermann from Anchor Desk

Countdown and Hardball aren't going anywhere, but their hosts are getting kicked off the MSNBC election anchor desk and replaced by David Gregory. This from the New York Times:

MSNBC tried a bold experiment this year by putting two politically incendiary hosts, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, in the anchor chair to lead the cable news channel's coverage of the election.

That experiment appears to be over.

After months of accusations of political bias and simmering animosity between MSNBC and its parent network NBC, the channel decided over the weekend that the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host David Gregory would anchor news coverage of the coming debates and election night. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will remain as analysts during the coverage.

The change -- which comes in the home stretch of the long election cycle -- is a direct result of tensions associated with the channel's perceived shift to the political left...

In interviews, 10 current and former staff members said that long-simmering tensions between MSNBC and NBC reached a boiling point during the conventions. "MSNBC is behaving like a heroin addict," one senior staff member observed. "They're living from fix to fix and swearing they'll go into rehab the next week."...

Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams, the past and present anchors of "NBC Nightly News," have told friends and colleagues that they are finding it tougher and tougher to defend the cable arm of the news division, even while they anchored daytime hours of convention coverage on MSNBC and contributed commentary each evening.

Partisanship isn't the only factor at play here. The article also suggests that the on-air tension between Matthews and Olbermann, as well as between Olbermann and Joe Scarborough, was a factor. (What about the Shuster-Scarborough fight, says I?)

If Gregory does well, I imagine we'll see him take over the Meet the Press chair after the election. Shame, I was kind of hoping for Gwen Ifill out of all the realistic options. As for Olbermann, while my opinion of him hasn't fallen quite as far as most other MyDDers, I still applaud the move. Maybe this kick in the pants will help him return to his pre-primary, less pompous, totally awesome form? And Matthews... eh, wish they'd just fire him. "HA!"

Your thoughts?

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Olbermann: Retire the "Special Comment"



Crossposted fromMY LEFT WING



Keith Olbermann is very good at soundbite polemic; the rise in popularity of Countdown has as least as much to do with his inarguably charming personality as with Olbermann's ability to transform complex issues of modern political science into televised Reader's Digest versions both palatable and comprehensible to today's harried and confused American citizen.


Olbermann's genuinely outraged Special Comments -- the ones he aimed at Bush when he first started offering them on Countdown -- were things of beauty.


Lately, however, they've lost their impact. It started with the one he aimed at Hillary Clinton. They have become, successively, less effective with each attempt.


If he wishes to preserve the power of this particular element in his arsenal, if indeed it remains salvageable, Keith Olbermann ought to retire the "Special Comment." He must reserve its use for the truly heinous, the truly momentous, the truly "Special" -- or risk its becoming yet another Countdown number, no more nor less notable or effective a propaganda tool than the "Worst Persons" or "Bushed."


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Clarifying thoughts on yesterday's Keith Olbermann post

Yesterday, I posted two quotes from Keith Olbermann on the front-page. I didn't share those quotes because, as one person suggested, I wanted to rehab KO's image, but rather because I thought the quotes themselves were worth sharing, their source notwithstanding. Unfortunately, only a handful of the 98-comments (so far) discussed the substance of the quotes. The vast majority of the thread was straight KO-bashing or KO-defending.

That's a shame. My intention was to spark a discussion not about the pros and cons of Olbermann, but about the importance in journalism of understanding history and being able to discern patterns. I thought that readers would be willing to look past the source and evaluate the quotes for their own value, on their own merits. I was wrong, and so bungled the chance to talk about the importance of "connecting the dots" in journalism. My bad.

Several commenters suggested I've lost my senses for calling Olbermann a journalist. If you read my post carefully, you'll see I did no such thing. It's debatable whether or not pundits are journalists, but no one can disagree that KO is a pundit rather than a reporter. My post wasn't about Olbermann as a journalist, but his quotes on journalists. You don't have to be President to talk about the President, and you don't have to be a reporter to talk about reporters. We bloggers, of all people, should know that.

But ok, if we want a discussion about Olbermann more than we want a discussion about journalism, than a discussion about Olbermann we shall have. Like most readers here, I do think his attacks on Hillary Clinton went way over the top. I don't think that makes him sexist, especially since he was the only male to stand up to behind-the-scenes office sexual harassment during his time at ESPN, but I do agree he let his passion get the better of him. He's done this on other topics as well, and the show was better before his "special comments" became the norm. He does occasionally become quite pompous, and that is obnoxious. Nevertheless, he does not bully or yell at his guests. He does not cut their mikes off. He gets upset when they shout over one another. He argues with his producers when they ask him to cover Britney/Lindsey/kidnapping schlock, and even quit his first MSNBC gig over it. He actually calls Bush out on Constitutional abuses. How many other cable news anchors can claim any of that?

So no, he's not perfect. He's certainly not the required progressive viewing he was starting to become. He doesn't come close to touching Bill Moyers, or even Jon Stewart. I too watch him much, much less often than I used to. But to call him scum or to yell at other MyDDers who still tune in is way over the top. I didn't join those who TR'd such comments, but I believe this community is better than that.

Now, bearing all that in mind, I'd like to try again. Please, set the source aside, reflecting not on the speaker but on the words themselves, and tell me this isn't valid, tell me this isn't something every Brian Williams or Anderson Cooper shouldn't keep in mind:

When you cover a sport like baseball or football or whatever, you're here for this part of the story. You've joined it 75 years in progress or 100 years in progress. It should be the same way when you're covering the news, particularly in politics, and yet as we've seen, people in the political world now don't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was... Part of the news is not just saying, well, this happened in the last 24 hours, but here's something that happened six weeks and there's been a development in it, you're just not reading about it, you're not hearing about it, because there's so much else to worry about it. The list, though, of things we could attach the word "-gate" to in the Bush administration is now 50 items long.

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Connecting the Dots: What any Good Journalist Should Do

Last night, I finally got around to listening to the podcast of Bill Moyers' December interview with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. Now I know that, given his primary season criticisms of the Clinton campaign, Olbermann is no longer seen by everyone here as some sort of knight in shining armor. To those people I would say, I understand your anger; I feel it every time a reporter repeats the lie that Joe Biden is a plagiarist or Howard Dean a polarizing madman. However, now that the primary season is over, we should once again be thankful that SOMEONE with a cable platform is calling out Bush for his attacks on the Constitution and his incompetence.

In that spirit, I want to share two Olbermann quotes from the interview that help crystallize just what a good journalist should do, and why today's media is not representative of good journalism. This first quote is in reply to a question from Moyers about what political journalism and sports broadcasting (Olbermann's prior life) have in common. Olbermann replied that both require skepticism and an appreciation for history.

In sports reporting, it is almost assumed that you need to have some predicative ability and you have to be able to discern patterns, and also discern when somebody's telling you, "No, our shortstop's great!" and he really isn't, and what the difference between those two things are. When the results don't match up to the hyperbole, you need to be able to see that, and you need to be able to say it in some sort of informed way. When you cover a sport like baseball or football or whatever, you're here for this part of the story. You've joined it 75 years in progress or 100 years in progress. It should be the same way when you're covering the news, particularly in politics, and yet as we've seen, people in the political world now don't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was.

This second quote came a few minutes later, and speaks to the importance of linking old news with new developments - what Olbermann calls "discerning patterns."

Part of the news is not just saying, well, this happened in the last 24 hours, but here's something that happened six weeks and there's been a development in it, you're just not reading about it, you're not hearing about it, because there's so much else to worry about it. The list, though, of things we could attach the word "-gate" to in the Bush administration is now 50 items long.

After listening to that interview, I sat down to write a list of all the Bush scandals I could think of. Olbermann was wrong - there are MORE than 50 items. I need to take some time to put the list in some sort of a coherent order, but will post it tomorrow for an open thread of add-ons.

What Olbermann calls "discerning patterns," my former journalism professor and freelance reporter Alexis Jetter calls "connecting the dots." Both are correct: the MSM's fear of repeating "old news" must die. We can't see the truth if we don't connect the past with the present, whether that past be two weeks old or forty years. Reporting the Dick Cheney censored CDC testimony to Congress means nothing if the media doesn't remind viewers that this censorship follows on the heels of similar attacks on the EPA and NASA. Connecting the dots is what Walter Cronkite did when he explained the Watergate scandal to the American people, and it's what Olbermann tries to do with his show's segment, "Bushed! Countdown's list of the top three Bush scandals you may have forgotten about because of all of the new Bush scandals." Here then is the most recent "Bushed" from July 11, guest hosted by Rachel Maddow.

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