OlbermannWatch.com "My Faves" Set
OlbermannWatch.com Favorited Photos from other Flickr Users
Got OlbyPhotos? See some on Flickr? DO NOT email us. Send us a FlickrMail instead. Include a link to the photo. If we like the photo you will see it displayed in the Olby Flickr Flood above.
New to Flickr? Sign up for a FREE Flickr account!
New to YouTube? Sign up for a FREE YouTube account!
|Subscribe to Olbermann Watch Mailing List|
|Visit this group|
"One Angry Man: Is Keith Olbermann changing TV news?" That's the important question asked by Peter Boyer, writing in The New Yorker. And the answer is, "yes." But Olbermann won't be the last one to change TV news.
Most immediately, TV news has surely never seen the sort of open alliance between an on-air talent and the left-wing blogosphere. In a scene-setting opener to his smoothly written--and not particularly favorable--piece, Boyer recalls the night of May 13-14th, when a restless-legged Olbermann stayed up till 3 am working on his most perfervid tirade against George W. Bush, accusing Bush of having an "addled brain," who was, in turn, manipulated by "the American snake-oil salesman Dick Cheney," and various "tragically know-it-all minions," "sycophants," and "mental dwarves." As Boyer summed up, "The denunciation hit the high notes of the most fevered antiwar rhetoric, on America and the world. Intelligence was faked, W.M.D.s were imagined, Iraq was laid waste, and American freedoms were trashed." And then, of course, Olbermann closed with, "This advice, Mr. Bush: Shut the hell up!"
"Shut the hell up." Nice, Keith. Wasn't it just a little while ago that liberal tut-tutters were denouncing conservative talk-radio-ers for their "angry" rhetoric? I guess anger is only bad if conservatives are the angry ones.
As Boyer further observes, "The jeremiad against Bush was a signature Olbermann effort, the sort of stylized, mocking tirade that has lately made him a cable-news sensation, the Edward R. Murrow of the Angry Left." OK, fine. Of course, there's nothing new about Bush-bashing in the media.
But here's where Boyer adds some interesting detail about Olbermann's polemical all-nighter back in May:
Olbermann was pleased with the script, and the next day, before going on the air with it, he posted excerpts on the liberal blog Daily Kos, which is a fairly good representation of the Olbermann fan base. The Kossacks wholly approved. ("You excoriated the bloodyhanded, warmongering imbecile." "This country cannot survive without you." "Dude, you've got a pair of steel ones!" "I'm gonna print it out, hang it up and memorize it.")
Once again, it's worth dwelling on this alliance between the lefty "netroots" and a TV anchorman. And as TCG has wondered aloud in the past, what does GE's Jeff Immelt think about all this Republican-bashing? And all of GE's shareholders and stakeholders?
But of course, that wasn't a concern for MSNBC, which has a much narrower focus--trying to lure the eyeballs of the leftermost 1 or 2 percent of the population. Here's more from Boyer:
His bosses loved it. "I think we're onto something," the president of NBC News, Steve Capus, told me. "That's what we keep hearing from the audience, more and more, is that they appreciate that we have people who are actually speaking truth to power, or being transparent in their own personal viewpoints." That's another way of saying that liberals, after many failed attempts, seem finally to have found their own Bill O'Reilly.
Boyer takes up the issue of who Olbermann can be compared to:
Capus and Griffin insist that Olbermann's broadcast is like an opinion section in a newspaper, suitable to what they call MSNBC's "cable sensibility." Olbermann differs. He begins each "Countdown" with the Beethoven theme from NBC's "Huntley-Brinkley Report," and concludes with Murrow's signature sign-off, "Good night, and good luck." He maintains that "Countdown" is very much part of that continuum. "It is a newscast with commentary and analysis, the way most really good newscasts used to be," he says. "Dosages of the various components vary in a greater degree than we're used to, or maybe were even done in the heyday of this kind of thing. But if you listen to those daily Murrow newscasts in the forties on the radio, Murrow would do the news, two and a half, three minutes, take a break, and then do a two- or three-minute commentary." It could be argued that Murrow's work in wartime London--he would report on the Battle of Britain, and also advocate against continued American neutrality in the war--is hardly the same thing as telling the President to "shut the hell up,'' or posing the question regarding Bush (as Olbermann did): "Pathological Presidential Liar or an Idiot-in-Chief?"
But of course, while Murrow was renowned for keeping his cool, even as he being bombed by Nazis, Olbermann is renowned for his non-cool. One senses a mania in Olbermann, which, of course, is only partially visible on the air. The Cable Gamer has noted the existence of Karma Bites, and Boyer does not, but Boyer nonetheless adds some more detail about Olbermann's past:
One of his co-anchors, Suzy Kolber, has said that Olbermann was sometimes so overbearing that she would lock herself in the bathroom and cry. Another colleague, Mike Soltys, has said that when Olbermann left the network, in 1997, "he didn't burn bridges here--he napalmed them."
One can only imagine all the juicy details that might come from Kolber and Soltys.
And more corroboration comes from Phil Griffin, the senior vice president in charge of MSNBC, who has been Olbermann's producer, off and on, for 30 years, says of Olbermann: "I mean, the guy is crazy, but he is made for this."
Indeed he might yet prove to be made for more than this. Boyer offers what I think is a scoop--that in 2005, Olbermann was seriously romanced by CBS News to be its evening news anchor, taking over from Bob Schieffer, who was filling in for Dan Rather. Which, of course, is the gig that went to Katie Couric. Recalling that lost opportunity, Olbermann told Boyer, "I think it would not do any worse than the three that are out there now."
And on that much, at least, TCG agrees with Olby. The decline, and further decline, of the broadcast nightly news shows has many causes, but the most obvious one is this: By 6:30 or 7 p.m., everybody already knows what the day's news has been. They have seen it in on cable news, they have heard it on the radio, they have read it on their Blackberry. So folks just don't need a network's idea of "The Voice of God" to tell them the news. Nor do they need a perky "girl next store" to tell them the news. They already know it, so it isn't news anymore.
What people need, in the evening, is perspective, insight, or analysis. OK, we know the news, now tell us what it means, or at least what you think it means. Tell us something useful about Bush, or Iraq, or China, or whatever. Venture an opinion! Dare to say something fresh and different!
Obviously not everyone will agree with everything that an individual anchor/commentator might say, but that's why we have cable news--each to his own, scattered across the dial. As they say, if you want "just the facts ma'am," there's always C-SPAN. And beyond the proliferation of TV channels, of course, is the infinitely greater proliferation of the Net.
Meanwhile, Olbermann has found his niche, on the Bush-bashing hard left. And other commentators, of course, have found their niches, too, such as Lou Dobbs, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Yes, those latter two are comedians, but as the Cable Gamer (and many others) have pointed out, Stewart, in particular, packs more wisdom into his humor than most "wise men" can pack into a ponderous lecture--as Will Rogers demonstrated, decades back, there's no reason why political commentary has be dull and unfunny.
Of course, there are others who offer commentary. One is Olbermann's bête noire, Bill O'Reilly. He has plenty to say about the news, and he says it every night.
So, as I was reading that Olbermann was seriously considered as a nightly news anchor, TCG thought to herself that maybe O'Reilly should be considered for such a gig. He would a whole new dimension to the nightly news, speaking for the half of America that feels neglected by the usual bi-coastal liberals who dominate the news biz.
But of course, O'Reilly won't be so considered, because he is a populist conservative. And the MSM can't have that, even if O'Reilly could draw a good rating. The MSM would rather continue to shrink doing things in the familiar liberal way, rather than risk growing in an unfamiliar conservative way.
So yes, Olbermann has changed TV news. But he is not the only one who has changed it. There will be others, and they won't all be histrionic Bush-hating lefties.
Cross-posted from The Cable Game