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Keith Olbermann last show: Has MSNBC killed its golden goose?

Keith Olbermann, last show on Friday, leaves MSNBC after eight years. His sudden exit, midway through his contract, has some saying he's been fired and others pointing to new owner Comcast.

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The past year has certainly been a rocky one for media personalities in the news business. Several – NPR’s Juan Williams, Hearst News Service's Helen Thomas, CNN’s Rick Sanchez – were fired for making statements that their bosses and at least some of the public deemed unacceptable. Some of those dismissals show how treacherous it can be for journalists who tread the ground between straight news reporting and commentary.

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Olbermann, of course, occupied no such fuzzy ground, standing unabashedly to the left of center and often taking on Fox News and direct “Countdown” competitor Bill O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Factor.” Still, according to USA Today, “bosses at NBC had discussed trying to keep the tone of vitriol down.”

Now it’s Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC's “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” who will go head to head with Fox’s Mr. O’Reilly in the 8 p.m. weekday time slot. A native Bostonian and a Harvard grad, Mr. O’Donnell has been with MSNBC as a political analyst since the network’s birth in 1996.

He also spent six years in Washington working for the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York and as chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee. But perhaps O'Donnell's most widely recognized accomplishment is “The West Wing,” the Emmy-winning TV series for which he was a writer and executive producer.

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