Keith Olbermann: the cautionary tale of why he was fired, again
Keith Olbermann has added yet another acrimonious exit to his résumé. He tells David Letterman: 'You're always telling me how big my head is.' Media experts agree his problems are self-made.
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But none of these figures have turned into serial outlet hoppers. Olbermann, on the other hand, is developing quite a track record of rancorous departures.Skip to next paragraph
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“His problems are self-made,” says Mr. Maloni, adding, “he needs to start accepting some responsibility for these troubles and show some humility.”
Some supporters suggest there is more to the bumpy trajectory of this host’s career. “Olbermann is obviously a difficult employee,” says Jeff Cohen, associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College in New York, via e-mail. “But he’s also a special talent – smart and funny – who offers riveting TV. That’s why, after public blowups at numerous TV channels, he has kept being rehired,” he says.
Mr. Cohen worked at MSNBC just before Olbermann was re-hired in 2003. Some of his early problems with management at MSNBC, he says, “were political; the suits didn’t want him criticizing President Bush or offering his progressive views. But Olbermann persevered, and ultimately proved that there was a sizable community out there who wanted a channel offering counterprogramming to Fox News. Olbermann is gone from MSNBC, but he sure left his mark on that channel – and he’s the individual most responsible for MSNBC surpassing CNN in viewership.”
But his ratings slide at Current seems to show he has turned off some former supporters with his attitudes. He debuted with 354,000 viewers on average, on Current TV. By the first quarter 2012 according to AdWeek, the show was "one of the least watched channels on TV," with 58,000 viewers in prime time.
“I really liked him when he went after elected officials who I didn't like, until he went after officials who I like,” says Mary Ellen Bachunis, a political science professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia, via e-mail. She adds: "I thought he was brutal, and my eyes were opened.”
She says this is not the political discourse she wants to encourage. "I don't want us to denigrate our opponents. This isn't Nixon's 'enemy list.' I want civil political discourse.”
When Letterman asked Olbermann what he intended to do now, he said simply, “I’m going to go home.” The moral of this story then might be that after trashing all your former homes, you need to ensure you have the money to build your own – something Olbermann will certainly have if he prevails in his reported $40 million lawsuit against Current.
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