Here We Go Again  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Features
From AJR,   February/March 2012

Here We Go Again   

Once again, Keith Olbermann is at war with his bosses.
Thurs., January 5, 2012

By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      


We have so seen this movie before. Keith Olbermann is at war with his bosses.

Olbermann is an extremely talented television journalist. He's also a control freak with a giant ego (even by TV standards) and an aversion to accepting the notion that he has bosses.

Olbermann has had spectacular successes, chiefly his innovative run on ESPN's SportsCenter with Dan Patrick and his stint at MSNBC, when his powerful liberal persona for the first time gave an identity to the long-flailing network.

But wherever he goes, there is turmoil, there is drama, and ultimately things end badly. In a very public way.

This time it was supposed to be different. When he joined Current TV, Al Gore's little-watched cable venture, last year, Olbermann was management. He was named Current TV's chief news officer and given a stake in the company, not to mention what is reported to be a five-year, $50 million contract. Maybe Keith would find happiness at last.

Not surprisingly, Olbermann's "Countdown" quickly became Current TV's highest-rated program (that's setting the bar pretty low, but still), although its audience has been far smaller than it was on MSNBC.

Things boiled over this week with a he-said, she-said public debate as to why Olbermann wasn't part of the network's coverage of the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night. But tension had been building for months.

In fairness to Olbermann, the mercurial anchor was deeply frustrated by the network's amateur-hour technical glitches. He also was bothered by a management change. Whatever the specifics, it's hardly a shock that the relationship went seriously on the rocks. It always does with Olbermann. But who knew that things would blow up in Kim Kardashian time?

Olbermann returned to the airwaves Wednesday night, and The Hollywood Reporter says his lawyers and Current TV's are talking about the future.

But one thing is certain: The likelihood of a long-term Olbermann run on Current TV is pretty low.

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