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Web Letters | The Nation

Olbermann Rules!

No more reason to watch MSNBC

I enjoyed this October 2007 article on Olbermann, which I found online. What are your thoughts now that he and MSNBC have split? I find now that there's no reason for me to watch MSNBC, except perhaps for Rachel Maddow, now that Olbermann is gone. Olbermann is an original, a man of passion and courage, an honest man who is not afraid to take risks. I admire him. MSNBC has not a clue what a huge mistake they have made in letting him go. He's better than Murrow, better than any news commentator I've ever seen. He dares to tell the truth. And if his fallibilities show, he is unapologetic. Good for him! The name of Bill O'Reilly should not be spoken in the same sentence, the same room, the same planet. He's not a newsman. He's a hack. Wherever Olbermann goes, I will follow. And I'll bet there will be millions who will do the same.

Sylvia S. Cutler

Haddon Township, NJ

Jan 26 2011 - 4:11pm

Web Letter

I have been watching Countdown for about eighteen months and I've thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Olbermann's special comments however, I've come to question the efficacy of some of these comments. When he called for Bush and Cheney to resign, a while ago, I wondered what is the purpose of this rhetoric.

With regard to the objects of his wrath he had to know these sentiments would fall on deaf ears. With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching I liken Mr. Olbermann's comments to that of one of the turkeys in the barnyard demanding the man with the ax consider tofu this year.

Instead of calling for their resignation, why didn't he call for their impeachment along with a detailed list of their high crimes against the Constitution? Why not call Pelosi on the carpet for her comments about impeachment being off the table before she was even installed as Speaker of the House? Why not a verbal indictment of Congress for being cowards in the face of the Bush administration's criminal demands? Why not a special comment about the Article V convention that could save our Constitution and how Congress has seen fit to disregard the petitions requesting a Constitutional Amendment Convention from all fifty states' legislatures?

These kinds of comments could serve useful democratic purposes, but to ask the king and his court to resign is just fallacious and self-serving. I have no intention of watching Countdown anymore, although I will miss his one-upmanship of BILLO.

Charles Lingenfelser

Brandon, MS

Oct 13 2007 - 9:34pm

Web Letter

Re Marvin Kitman's bravura essay "Olbermann Rules," next either Mr Kitman or Olbie will be suggesting that "mainstream 'news' " ("news"--HAHAHA) be required to be both thorough and accurate in what it reports.

Who knows, perhaps someone will suggest that in the new one-hour news format an appearance by an historian or some other type of specialist on a given subject might be advantageous to give the viewers a little background about a region, say a history of Iraq, reminding everyone of relatively recent events in particular, e.g, Saddam's links with Reagan & Rumsfeld, or British attempts in the early twentieth century to control the region because of Churchill's perception, ca. 1908, that oil was the fuel of the future and that the British had to control the region (shortly thereafter an accomplished fact that practically assured the allied side of victory in WW II).

Who knows, the same historical summary could be done with Iran? Perhaps we could even evolve to a "One-Minute History Debate" on our news programs, of course allowing it covertly to run for three, even four minutes, beginning on Olbermann and then spreading to, who knows... Katie Couric? Anyone who needed to get their numbers up and willing to use some unusual, unprecedented, unheard of journalistic technique.

In all probability, journalism schools already teach this idea in their classes, but it is no doubt an idea promptly rejected by editors and managers at the various organs of the mainstream media, certainly in the same manner by which editors redact from reporters' articles awkward facts about the comments or actions of presidential candidates.

Jim Crawford

Westwood , NJ

Oct 1 2007 - 2:54pm

Web Letter

I can certainly understand Marvin Kitman’s desire to lionize Keith Olbermann for his tough-talking editorials, and for taking Bush and his fellow travelers to task. Olbermann is a welcome corrective to the trend in US media that offers hysterical right-wing blowhards on the one hand, and overly-cautious affectless centrists on the other.

It gives me no pleasure to say, however, that Kitman’s essay is one of the silliest and most naïve commentaries on the state of American journalism that I’ve read in quite a long time. As amusing as Olbermann may be at times, his program represents analysis and commentary--not news reporting per se. It make us feel good to hear him score points for "our side." But that alone is insufficient to the task of journalism in such complex times.

It is ironic that the corporate concentration of ownership, and the attendant commercialism and careerism that have so degraded American journalism, particularly in the last decade, have created a situation that made the media market ripe for someone like Olbermann to appear sooner or later. Is it any wonder that Chris Matthews, and even the ridiculous Glen Beck seek to imitate Olbermann’s mojo?

Most mainstream American media today offer little more than overt propaganda (Fox), infotainment (USA Today, Time), or a slavish repetition of the buzzwords and talking points of politicians, pundits and other permanent members of the corporate chattering classes (CNN, NYT, WaPo, etc.).

The Internet, especially the political blogs and YouTube have changed the media market equation--tapping into the alienation and rage felt by so many thinking people. It was only a matter of time before the established broadcast media sought to enter this market segment.

Whether or not one agrees with the idea that news reporting should strive for an unbiased approach, the idea that Olbermann is in touch with some sort of primal Murrow-esque journalistic authenticity is not only sophomoric, it’s trivial, and beside the point.

However smart and telegenic he may be, Olbermann is still part of the very system of corporate media that has brought us to the point where stories about the careers of Dan Rather and Katy Couric eat up more news time than in-depth analysis of the political situation in Iran, or the origins of the housing bubble.

It seems awfully pathetic to hear liberals and progressives (or anyone who cares about serious journalism for that matter) saying that just because we now have our own version of Bill O’ Reilly (classier and more hip, to be sure) that this is cause for celebration. The real test for Olbermann will be to see if he is unsparing in his criticism of Hillary once she becomes President and is running the Iraq War, helping Israel subdue the Palestinians, renewing the Patriot Act, selling out healthcare to the insurance companies etc. What’s the frequency, Keith?

Mark Marino

Sarasota, FL

Sep 29 2007 - 2:33pm

Web Letter

Finally, a prominent and much-respected publication has given Keith O. his due. His is the single most refreshing, articulate, well informed, passionate and persuasive voice and mind on network TV. His demeanor is both dignified and droll, and he seems never at a loss for the right word. Despite the distraction of dissing celebrities like Paris et al., his hour is the most watchable and worthwhile news magazine currently available. I have copied and forwarded many of his commentaries to friends and family because he says it better than anyone else. I think Ed Murrow would be proud to have his signature sign-off repeated by one of the very few in his class.

Norman Anderson

Mercer Island, WA

Sep 28 2007 - 11:53pm

Web Letter

Wait--am I reading these letters on thenation.com?? Many, many wonderful thoughts here, but with a few of these letters... well, come on. Have even intelligent people (like the kind who read The Nation) lost the ability to understand the difference between a "talk show host" and a journalist? Between fact and gossip? Between truth and spin?

Lorrie Mowat

San Diego, CA

Sep 28 2007 - 8:27pm

Web Letter

So, my favorite print place portrays my favorite performer from where my favorite Nation ad appears to tickle my fern... Keith is passionate, principled and must-see TV at 5 and 9 in our house. Since I tripped over Keith while changing channels about four years ago--long before most folks had heard of him--I have kept my fingers crossed that he wouldn't be Wellstoned for his courage. I wrote the first fan mail of my life for Special Comments and urged MSNBC to notice the modern day E.R. Murrow in the midst of slop posing as news on other channels/sources. Some nights we stand up and cheer; other nights we share his sadness and anger at the loss of our beloved country. I distributed a dozen copies of his book; bought several of the Dean trilogy and became a Nation Activist, etc., because Keith calls one to act as the decent sort with his Sirs and stirring eloquence. Alison, Amy et al. substitute for him which pleases my feminist self who sees their value. We check in at TruthOut.com, YouTube and ICH to ensure we catch any missed programs and invite relatives and friends to notice where excellence resides. Now, must go buy Kitman's book because I vote with money. His article captured the essence of the Keith we applaud. His suggestion to CBS is spot on. We who abhor Orally for his greed, dishonesty and discourtesy will frame that cover art just as we did that Bush/MAD cover that wound up on those mugs we gave away. We who miss Molly Ivins are especially grateful for the reminder of her unique wit. Thanks for what you did, Nation. You made my day with Marvin Kitman's bit.

Jeanne Khan

La Mirada, CA

Sep 27 2007 - 6:59pm

Web Letter

K.O. rocks! Intelligent and articulate, he is fact-based in his ("serious") reporting, and as the article points out, fearless in his analysis. And au contraire to whoever wrote KO neglects to invite issue specific knowledgeable guests who may differ from his own opinion or the slant the news of the day may lead--that's blatantly false (though you may not see them on air for they often decline the offer, perhaps due to their own fear of Keith's abilities).

I've seen Keith ding liars, pretenders, misleaders and cowards from every political stripe. He may voice what others fear to, but he uses verifiable, sourced information as his basis. Just because one group may be criticized more than another doesn't automatically infer bias, it may infer that group is more problematic than another in a specific area (duh).

If one lacks the ability to distinguish satire, sourced validity, comedic underpinnings, opinion and analyses from one another, they may be unable to appreciate some of the geniusness and insight that KO provides, and instead may misconstrue the message. That seems to be the case with some of the criticisms written here. I find the show informative and refreshing--just have a few grains of salt handy.

Leslie Trautman

Lancaster, PA

Sep 25 2007 - 11:33am

Web Letter

Kitman lauds Olbermann as the answer to cable news programs. Olbermann is one of the most partisan, biased talk show hosts on television or radio. His entire show is one long attack on Republicans, conservatives and the Bush Administration. There are no dissenting viewpoints, no guests who disagree with him and no pro and con debate on any issue.

Now O'Reilly, who Olberman constantly criticizes and ridicules, at least allows dissenting viewpoints on his show. For every right-winger he has on his show, he puts a left-winger against them for balance. And he continually has guests who vehemently disagree with him. Olberman never does this. His show is one long hour of his unassailed opinions and attacks on those he disagrees with.

Arnold Levine

Boca Raton, FL

Sep 24 2007 - 6:49pm

Web Letter

I strongly disagree with the notion that evening news shows need "less 'objectivity' and more analysis." What the public needs is more journalists in every news medium who understand that objectivity, analysis, and, yes, passion, are not mutually exclusive. Molly Ivins, bless her soul, never lacked passion, but she was never fact-challenged, either. Nor is Keith Olbermann.

I will concede that objectivity--or what passes for such in a politically oppressive age--is not the sole journalistic virtue. The most objective broadcast news medium still surviving in the USA is probably NPR, which is why NPR is so boring.

But I thank God that we still have NPR every time I view or listen to corporate broadcast media. This wasteland of debased, sensationalistic, moment-by-moment coverage, devoid of context or depth, is no longer in any positive sense objective, let alone "fair and balanced." There is a reason why the Fox News Corporation tried to make this phrase a registered trademark: so that it could re-define what the words "fair" and "balanced" mean and sue anybody who protested.

There may once have been a time when the critique of "objectivity" (note the meaningful but unfortunately inaudible quotation marks) was universally understood as the demand that fact-checking should be supplemented with passion and perspective (indeed, multiple perspectives)--not the demand that journalists should be entertainers rather than truth-diggers. Unfortunately, this time is long gone.

What we now need to say is that in journalism, no amount of passion or bravado is a substitute for fact-checking. If we are so foolish as to praise Keith Olbermann for daring to abandon "objectivity" (praise that Olbermann himself, not hearing the all-important quotation marks, might not take as a compliment), then we will accomplish two things, both of them bad:

(1) We will allow the unfair and unbalanced Fox News Corporation to declare objectivity to be their exclusive property, gleefully pointing out that the depraved partisans of the left have proudly abandoned it.

(2) We of the politically progressive community will indicate that we, too, contrary to our claims to be reality-based rather than faith-based, care only about passion and (our) opinions, not news--which must be reassuring to the owners of broadcast news corporations who may still have any guilt about replacing substantive reporting with sensational entertainment, all for their own profit.

I am grateful to Marvin Kitman for bringing Keith Olbermann to my attention. I have now watched him for the first time (on the web), and I agree that he's brilliant. I am especially delighted that Olbermann's success proves that lefties can be entertaining, too. But Keith Olbermann is not sufficient compensation for Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Imus and Limbaugh, and the general intellectual poverty of corporate broadcast media, not to mention shrinking newspaper staffs from coast to coast.

Eric Paul Jacobsen

Saint Paul, MN

Sep 23 2007 - 11:54pm

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