I can’t believe Keith Olbermann and MSNBC have chosen to part ways. I would think MSNBC needs Keith, more than Keith needs MSNBC. One could argue, as many have, that MSNBC owes its popularity, its growth, its ratings and its latest talent – here I’m thinking Lawrence O’Donnell, and Rachel Maddow – to Keith. Exactly why they parted ways is unknown at this time, but I’m sure will come out in the days to come. One could speculate it had to do with new ownership, or perhaps the recent “scandal” over Olbermann’s contributions to several Democratic candidates in apparent violation of company policy. For this, he was suspended for a brief period of time. Then there was the tweak of the show after Jon Stewart’s rebuke regarding the war between Fox and MSNBC that he suggested fuels unhealthy discourse that exacerbates the American divide. For Keith’s part, he made some programming changes, for example featuring the Worlds Worst Person segment with a “not really” disclaimer. I actually liked the original segment as it produced a nice counterpoint to rants from the right. Then, after the Arizona Massacre, the calls for civility seem to have changed the tone of news and opinion shows, though maybe in the slightest, but noticeable of ways, and maybe, though I don’t have proof, has given network executives the need to control the content of programming. If this is the case with Countdown, I can understand why Keith might have decided it was time to retire the show. Perhaps it had run its course.
But I will say this emphatically: I will miss the show. I loved it. I watched it every night. It helped me make sense of what was happening on Capital Hill. The show was well-written and polished, always fresh, topical and entertaining. Keith’s intelligence, and wit, always shone through. There was never a dull moment on the show. Keith’s guests were the people we wanted to hear from and he interviewed them expertly and with respect making even the average person who may never have been on television before feel comfortable. It takes talent to pull that off. And he is as versatile as they come. He could do stand-up comedy. As a former ESPN employee, he could call and commentate on any sports game. I consider him a first rate journalist and newsman. And I also consider him to be a first rate person who cares deeply for the human race. This is evident in the way he reported on the issues of the day from health care reform to gun control with a focus on the middle class, the poor and downtrodden. His financial support for free health care clinics shows that he uses his celebrity status for the good of humankind.
I’m sure he will turn up soon on another network, maybe Comedy Central, HBO or basic cable. Maybe he could team up with Conan O’Brien. He could do most anything – write a book, anchor the 2012 Olympics, do stand-up comedy, create a new show, or teach. Imagine taking a media studies class with Professor Keith Olbermann? He could write for the Nation. I’m sure Chris Hayes would welcome his talents. Or he could run for public office. And why not? I think he’d win. We need another progressive voice in Congress. Wait, how about the Presidency in 2012, or maybe 2016? Just a thought!
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