Sunday, September 07, 2008

Journalists Win! Olbermann Out as News Anchor

The New York Times reported today that the once powerful NBCNews Organization is making moves to regain control over and return credibility to the pathetic MSNBC Cable Network. As a result Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews have been removed from anchor desk duties on all future political news broadcasts and will be replaced by David Gregory.

The Wizard could not possibly be more pleased.
I had confidently predicted this back on August 26th - Keith Olbermann was a disaster and an embarrassment. His iron fisted control eliminated all real reporting and squelched any opposing views. He was a tyrant and a bully and NBC could no longer look the other way.

The Times report stated, in part (editing and emphasis are mine, I encourage you to read the entire report):

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.

“The most disappointing shift is to see the partisan attitude move from prime time into what’s supposed to be straight news programming,” said Davidson Goldin, formerly the editorial director of MSNBC and a co-founder of the reputation management firm DolceGoldin.

Executives at the channel’s parent company, NBC Universal, had high hopes for MSNBC’s coverage of the political conventions. Instead, the coverage frequently descended into on-air squabbles between the anchors, embarrassing some workers at NBC’s news division, and quite possibly alienating viewers.

MSNBC remained in last place among the broadcast and cable news networks. In prime time, the channel averaged 2.2 million viewers during the Democratic convention and 1.7 million viewers during the Republican convention.

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.”

Mr. Olbermann, a 49-year-old former sportscaster, has become the face of the more aggressive MSNBC, and the lightning rod for much of the criticism.

In January, Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews, the host of “Hardball,” began co-anchoring primary night coverage, drawing an audience that enjoyed the pair’s “SportsCenter”-style show. While some critics argued that the assignment was akin to having the Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly anchor on election night — something that has never happened — MSNBC insisted that Mr. Olbermann knew the difference between news and commentary.

But in the past two weeks, that line has been blurred. On the final night of the Republican convention, after MSNBC televised the party’s video “tribute to the victims of 9/11,” including graphic footage of the World Trade Center attacks, Mr. Olbermann abruptly took off his journalistic hat.

“I’m sorry, it’s necessary to say this,” he began. After saying that the video had exploited the memories of the dead, he directly apologized to viewers who were offended. Then, sounding like a network executive, he said it was “probably not appropriate to be shown.”

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.

Mr. Williams did not respond to a request for comment and Mr. Brokaw declined to comment. At a panel discussion in Denver, Mr. Brokaw acknowledged that Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews had “gone too far” at times, but emphasized they were “not the only voices” on MSNBC, according to The Washington Post.

Some tensions have spilled out on-screen. On the first night in Denver, as the fellow MSNBC host Joe Scarborough talked about the resurgence of the McCain campaign, Mr. Olbermann dismissed it by saying: “Jesus, Joe, why don’t you get a shovel?”

The following night, Mr. Olbermann and his co-anchor for convention coverage, Mr. Matthews, had their own squabble after Mr. Olbermann observed that Mr. Matthews had talked too long.

NBC Universal executives are also known to be concerned about the perception that MSNBC’s partisan tilt in prime time is bleeding into the rest of the programming day. On a recent Friday afternoon, a graphic labeled “Breaking News” asked: “How many houses does Palin add to the Republican ticket?” Mr. Griffin called the graphic “an embarrassment.”


Unknown said...

That is good news. And while I am not too crazy about David Gregory. At least the man knows how to apologize when he crosses a line.

Bob Keller said...

Lee - I have no information to back up the observation I'm writing below.... so this is pure speculation on my part, but....

On the evening of August 26th Gregory was a pure partisan and went so far over the line he was almost indistingushable from Olbermann. It was awful. That was also (we now know) the night all hell broke loose at MSNBC.

I wrote in my blog the next day that "something" clearly happened because we had a new and non-partisan Gregory.

Either someone spoke to Gregory and let him know he might just be the "future" of MSNBC or he just read the handwriting on the wall, but either way, I trust Gregory to do a good and fair job.


Back to Olbermann - I have no problem what-so-ever with Olbermann as the host of Countdown. While I find him mean-spirited and he frequently stretches the truth, so what? So are a lot of pundits. He is a liberal Sean Hannity.

He is often funny and interesting and he has a point to make. He should offer analysis and opinion.

But he is far from impartial and he has no business as a news reporter or anchor.

Unknown said...

Olbermann is not my cup of tea, loved him on sports center, grew to dislike him on countdown.

So, I stopped watching countdown.