Channel Nine from Outer Space

“Is Keith Olbermann the Future of Journalism,” the American Journalism Review asked back in 2007. Five years later, I think we have a rather definitive answer to that question, but for the record, here’s how their article opened:


Often, in any creative endeavor, timing is the difference between genius and an unsold canvas, a rejected manuscript, an expired contract.

Back in June 2003, not long after MSNBC, the little cable network that rarely could, first aired the prime-time news program “Countdown,” television critic Phil Rosenthal took notice. There was no funereal recitation of the night’s top stories, but a fast-moving mix of news, entertainment and opinion calibrated to bring in and keep young viewers. Orchestrating it all was Keith Olbermann, who, it seemed, had been working his entire broadcasting career to get to this show.

“Keith Olbermann is on to something. Something big,” Rosenthal wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times. “‘Countdown’ flows from funny to poignant in connecting the seemingly random dots of a day’s events, important and trivial, steadfastly clinging to basic tenets about what is and isn’t news without being bound to traditional approaches.

“And who knows? ‘Countdown’ might just offer a glimpse of the future of TV news.”

And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for his meddling ego!

But to answer the AJR’s query from 2007, is Keith Olbermann the future of journalism? Yes he is, in exactly the same way that “In our news culture, [Joy] Behar, a stand-up comic by profession, looms as the new Edward R. Murrow,” which Frank Rich similarly forecast the following year, back when he was still with the New York Times.


Criswell could not be reached for comment to discuss the high quality of these predictions from the MSM’s Ancien Régime.

Related: “MSNBC duped: Network runs satirical fake news from Daily Kos as a real story.” That’s the great thing about postmodernism — reality, or the lack thereof, is totally fungible.

Update: Speaking of Criswell-like predictions, “Keith Olbermann was disheartened to discover Al Gore, Joel Hyatt and the management of Current are no more than dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives,” Keith’s attorneys write in his complaint, adding, “Olbermann did not join Current to ruin his hard-won reputation and appear on a show that was an embarrassment,” to himself and the “Olbermann Broadcasting Empire.” (Picture those last words being spoken by the leather-lunged voice of doom announcer who recorded Les Nessman’s intros on WKRP.)

Another item from the Olberman v. Gore & Hyatt law suit — actually it’s Olberman v. Current TV, LLC, but the 44-page complaint doesn’t come to its first legal “cause of action” until page 36. Everything before that are the “factual allegations” (aka an Olbermanesque-rant) which talks about Gore, and mostly Hyatt, as much as Current TV.  At one point Olberman says,”Hyatt also attempted to isolate Olbermann from his professional representatives in an awkward attempt to form a close personal friendship with his new star.”


In what appears to be a somewhat inconsistent but less salacious rendition of the same situation the complaint says:

Hyatt threatened to derail Olbermann’s career and take away the livelihood of the staffers who had loyally followed Olbennann to Current unless Olbermann agreed to not only ban his manager from all interactions related to Current, but also his agents and lawyers.

It goes on:

Olbermann gave in to Hyatt’s blackmail for the purpose of saving the premiere of the Program and [cue the violins] the jobs of those who worked on it. Olbermann left the meeting devastated at having discovered that he was working for a blackmailer.

“He signed up to work for Joel Hyatt, who did he expect, Mother f***ing Teresa?” said an exceedingly local attorney when asked to comment on the complaint.

Big Journalism’s Kurt Schlichter is also “Analyzing The Olbermann Suit,” in a multipart essay. Part One? “Epic Ego Fail.”

(H/T: JWF on Twitter)


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