Here’s a reason why the left can’t get its act together:
There had been numerous reports in recent months about friction between the cable network, which counts former Vice President Al Gore as one of its backers, and Olbermann, who also had a tempestuous breakup with MSNBC.
Current confirmed the dismissal in a statement issued Friday that read, “Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.”
Olbermann fired back at the network in a series of tweets Friday afternoon, indicating plans to sue the network and insinuating that Gore and another founder of the network, Joel Hyatt, behaved unethically.
“In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out,” tweeted Olbermann, who indicated he planned to take legal action against them. “For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one.”
Since we’re all outside the bubble of the decision makers at Current TV, we don’t know what’s really going on, but bottom line is we shouldn’t care. Current TV was billed as a progressive counterpoint to Fox News, so in order to give the network instant impact, the money men behind it went for Olbermann, who was the voice of progressive newscasting during the Bush administration.
But we do know that Olbermann doesn’t get along with his bosses. His departures from ESPN and MSNBC were less than amicable. Lots of finger pointing and name calling. And there was a lot of that at Current.
He clashed early and often with Mr. Hyatt, and especially with David Bohrman, a former CNN executive who was installed as president of Current last summer. The clashes became visible when Mr. Olbermann started anchoring his program, “Countdown,” in front of a funereal black backdrop, apparently out of frustration about technical difficulties.
Mr. Olbermann also declined Current’s requests to host special hours of primary election coverage in January, causing lawyers from both sides to intercede. Eventually an election coverage plan was cobbled together, but in January and February, he continued to miss many days of work, as he himself acknowledged on his Twitter page. He attributed some of his absences to throat problems.
Now I’ve been a fan of Olbermann. He was the only broadcaster I could listen to during the Bush administration and at least inspired the left to speak up. But his tantrums have been REALLY ANNOYING.
So MSNBC dumped him and Current TV, looking for immediate clout, picked him up. They gave him a contract valued at $50 million over a five-year period. So he’s one of the one percent. And he refused to do the work? Screw him. When you’re getting what averages out to $10 million a year, you get on the air and broadcast even if the studio’s on fire around you. That’s a ridiculous amount of money to offer one person at a network startup, no matter how much star power that person provides.
But we see daily that television isn’t about informing the public. It’s about ratings and stars. Fox News gets ratings because it has carved out a specific audience. It gives its viewers what they want, and they want their biases confirmed. If Rupert Murdoch saw that he could make more money appealing to the left, he’d turn on a dime and give that audience what it wants. Fox already has shown that it can completely reverse course depending on who’s in office. Look at its coverage of responsibility for high gasoline prices.
But successful network startups like Fox and ESPN got their start by picking up cheap talent from around the country, giving them a format to follow, letting them loose and seeing who produced the most and drew the most viewers. Now their juggernauts.
Here’s a novel concept: If Current TV was going to give one guy $10 million a year, why doesn’t it now take that money and hire 60 progressive journalists at $150,000 a year each (spending $1 million less than it’s spending on Olbermann) and do some real work? Get them out across the country covering the states and understanding what’s going on in every legislature in the country. Have them serve as the counterweight to the lies of Fox News.
Doesn’t Current TV realize how many people in smaller markets across the country would jump at that offer and work their asses off? Journalism today has changed. Reporters today don’t just write for a newspaper or broadcast for a television station. They’re putting together video. They’re putting together audio. They’re writing for the Web. They’re Tweeting. They’re blogging. There is no such thing as a television reporter or a newspaper reporter anymore. They are now multiplatform providers.
And they’re being paid crap. If you’re a progressive reporter in a small market, you’re living large if you’re getting $60,000 a year. You give $150,000 a year to 60 people and they’re not going to complain about backdrops, call in with “throat problems” or refuse to cover politics in a crucial election year. They are going to produce important journalism. And if you’re a startup looking for ratings, you start doling out the bigger checks when the numbers go up.
Serve the public. Don’t bother with satisfying the whims of some intemperate egomaniac.
- Keith Olbermann Fired From Current TV (perezhilton.com)
- Olbermann Out (Again) (talkingpointsmemo.com)
- Olbermann Out At Current TV (lezgetreal.com)
- Current TV Fires Keith Olbermann, Replaces Him With Spitzer Immediately, Olbermann to Sue (thinkprogress.org)
- Current TV Fires Keith Olbermann (npr.org)