Friday, August 22, 2008

Olbermann's Verdict: Maddow In, Abrams Out

Rachel Sklar originally wrote this post for the Huffington Post, but it was determined that it was not suitable for that site. So now Poynter is publishing it.

In it, Sklar dissects the removal of Dan Abrams from MSNBC's 9 p.m. slot and inserting Rachel Maddow's new show. The post does a critique of Keith Olbermann's role in all of this, and how his internal political strength at the network is growing.

That network anchors might not be best buddies isn't exactly groundbreaking, but putting all of this together suggests something lopsided at MSNBC. It's not particularly opaque, either; here's Jossip's headline, "Rachel Maddow's New Show: The Most Solid Evidence Yet That Keith Olbermann Runs MSNBC"; here is New York's Daily Intel: "With Appointment of Rachel Maddow to Prime-Time Host, Keith Olbermann Appears to Officially Run MSNBC." Maddow obviously was a rising star at MSNBC anyway, but this isn't about why she was hired, this is about who she replaced, and why -- and, behind the scenes, by whom.

Also, Rush Limbaugh got the coveted Silver the other night as Worser Person in the World for daring to make a comment:

All this back and forth aside, it's clear that Olbermann has not only become the face (and voice) of MSNBC, but he has indeed started to shape its editorial content. Is that good? well, ultimately viewers will decide. People who make a living through political commentary should, in fact, by the nature of the job be forceful. But Olbermann always dishes up a main course of attacks on conservatives, often getting personal. (Would he mock a liberal he disagreed with by bringing up a previous drug problem? I doubt it.) And is it wise for any network to allow the talent to make programming decisions?

It is clear that FOX has it voice, and MSNBC-Keith is developing its own. Whether it results in ratings and advertisment revenues remains to be seen. What's truly important is that viewers understand they are watching commentary. Occasionally, the line between opinion and straight news gets blurry. Newspapers have it easy. They have "news" pages and "editorial" pages. Television is different, and the mixing of the two is growing.

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