January 27, 2011

Broadcast News

There are were few people on television quite as divisive as Keith Olbermann (that list would include Jay Leno, Rachel Maddow, practically anyone with a gig on Fox News but most especially Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, and the entire cast of Jersey Shore) so I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that NBC cut him loose. Or that a mutual, amicable loose-cutting decision was made. Whatever. NBC used to be the premier network but now, after a long series of terrible decisions, it's the out of shape fat guy of the networks, sucking wind in a losing race to keep up.

But then the whole decision really is surprising when you think about it.

Olbermann was, after all, MSNBC's marquee talent. He had the most popular show on the left-leaning network and was the liberals' answer to Fox's O'Reilly. In fact, he regularly handed the network minor ratings victories over their Fox News counterparts. They had to be proud of that. Or not.

Aside from faux news personalities like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and people who seem to be able to cut through the crap like Craig Ferguson, Olbermann was one of the few media personalities I found compelling and gave a damn about. I didn't always agree with him - though I'll admit that the majority of time I did - but he put thought into what he said, he said it well, and he had little tolerance for the political machine running over the regular guy (though he himself was not a regular guy because regular guys don't make $7 million a year).

I also understand that he was part of the problem he himself took it upon himself to fight. He didn't reduce the rhetoric but added to it. But, because we're a news-obsessed culture that can't seem to escape from the victimization of the 24 hour news cycle, that will always be the case. There will always be people filling that role. I'd rather have someone like Olbermann advocating my point of view, addressing the issues that concern me, than a nut like Ann Coulter.

I guess - bottom line - I'm sorry to see him go and hope he'll turn up again somewhere soon. Through some very important times in our recent history he gave voice to the things I was thinking and the power in that cannot be underestimated. At the same time, you can't count on the media - no matter which way they lean - to be an advocate for much of anything. Where there's money and ratings and advertising dollars, you simply can't expect something to survive because it's good or makes sense?

What do you think of the 24 hour news cycle? Is it a blessing or a curse? And how has it changed us?

Posted by Chris at January 27, 2011 8:05 AM
Comments

When I was young and naive, I thought the explosion of the Internet and 24 hour news was a boon to civilization. We'd all be better informed and all that.

I was an idiot.

Instead, the wealth of information allows everybody to hear only the news that supports their preconceived beliefs. Back when we all got our news from Walter Cronkite, you could have a conversation because you and the other side were starting from common ground, the facts as described by one of the 3 network news operations.

How do you have a conversation with somebody that thinks Glenn Beck is telling the truth?

Posted by: COD at January 27, 2011 9:20 AM

I get my news primarily from Stewart and Colbert - I used to say this with a little bit of embarrassment. Now, I think maybe that's not so bad. I don't know what difference it can make in the bigger picture that little ol' me refuses to watch any other TV news (or "news") programs, but it makes me feel really good to opt out of the entire 24-hour crazy craziness.

Posted by: Julie at January 27, 2011 10:10 AM

I too was sorry to hear he is gone. He has made me cry and stand up and cheer with glee that someone was standing beside me in my beliefs and he was just great, true, clear and honest. Rachel Maddow is good but he is better.

I think 24/7 media is bad for society. Plain and simple. That is is.

Posted by: Christina at January 27, 2011 10:17 AM

This was something that we studied quite a bit back in my poli sci days; the real killer was the commercialization of the the news, because it forced everything down to the lowest common denominator of "if it bleeds, it leads". It used to be common for very long, relatively dry / boring interviews to be on the news about the topics of the day, for both the establishment and opposition. I think that the Internet is helping, when you look at shows that are now offering extended interviews online; it allows for longer conversations to happen, while still showing bits on the TV.

I think where we are headed is that the Internet is allowing us to have more conversations slightly out of real time, and allows for quicker fact checking / research / learning. I know that when I have an issue I'm curious about, I'm off to Wikipedia and then beyond.

Take your blog as an example; ten years ago this type of interaction among people would not be possible in the time-frame that it occurs now. You are an example of the "everyone is a publisher" mindset; you create content that we consume, and we can interact with you. The volume is low enough that you are able to keep up. And because of that, we collectively are able to have conversations and contemplate in ways that may not be possible in our normal everyday life.

I'm sure Olberman will be picked up quickly; NBC has been on autopilot ever since Friends wrapped up, and someday they will revitalize ( remember when ABC was the underdog? ), but for now I agree this was a bad move.

Posted by: metawizard2 at January 27, 2011 11:33 AM

I'm dismayed by all of the partisan talking heads. Investigative journalism seems to be dead and in its place, we have talking heads. CNN gets a Republican and a Democrat to spew party talking points and that's "news". Fox gets a Republican and a centrist Republican and that's "news". I don't watch any of it anymore.

Posted by: James Proffitt at January 27, 2011 12:51 PM

I go through periods of loving it, and hating it. I like it when something new is going on, and they take the time to do a history to catch you up (We're at war here, and here is what you need to know about the area, the people, their ideas about the world, why they've been locked in a civil war for 2000 years, blah, blah, blah) but I hate that so much of the time it boils down to a sound bite (death panels, gag, gag, gag). Seems like if they are going to be on 24 hours a day, they should do a little fact checking, too.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 27, 2011 5:52 PM

It's why I don't have cable. I don't care what they have to say. And I'm glad Olbermann's gone. I know other journalists are unethical, but it's like saying "Well, other attorneys cheat their clients, so I should be able to, too." Um, no. Go NBC for taking the hit. I know a woman who met her husband at CNN. They were both fact-checkers. They both left because they couldn't stomach the lack of attention to detail.

I love me some Jon Stewart, but I only watch it online for entertainment. I read my news like the old f&*# that I am and try to look up statistics instead of hearing speeches. It takes less time, too. ;)

BTW - I DO like crap shows like Rock of Love and stuff like that. I just don't want to spend the money on it when I can do other stuff. We do have Netflix streaming, and that's WONDERFUL. :)

Posted by: alektra at January 29, 2011 9:08 PM

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