Saturday, June 14, 2008

Guest post: Olbermann rebound: McCain special comment

In recent weeks Keith Olbermann had come very very close to turning into a parody of himself.

Specifically, his special comment on Hillary Clinton's RFK remark, and his placement of Katy Couric atop his "worst person in the world" list had draw some pretty harsh rebukes, and deservedly so.

James Poniewozik wrote of Olbermann:
Even if we concede his argument--that Clinton was at best callously and at worst intentionally suggesting she should stay in the race because Obama might be killed--every time he turns up the volume to 11 like this lately, he sounds like just another of the cable gasbags he used to be a corrective to.

Jossip writes:

How did we go from naming Rupert Murdoch the "Worst Person in the World" to adding America's sweetheart Katie Couric to that list? Ah, right: Because Keith Olbermann's popular segment is as much a place to criticize world leaders guilty of human rights violations as it is for him to defend his own. And thanks to Couric aiming some "anonymous" critical comments at the NBC family, there she is, Keith's No. 1 target.
So its certainly clear that Keith O' had some splaining to do, and needed to treat his own special comments with a slightly higher degree of reverence. It was, after all, his special comments against Bush that rocketed him to stardom in the first place.

There's no doubt he's got some ego about him, but he's also very very talented on-camera. His logic is typically solid, and he's pretty fearless with what he throws out there. This combination of attributes certainly lead the segment and its creator into a minefield of self-indulgence and false-outrage/false-righteousness that could sweep their own relevance right out to sea. Olbermann has to be very diligent in objectively analyzing whether or not a special comment is warranted before going on the air with it.

I think the general coverage of the Clinton RFK statement was clearly bored media hype, and it was not really worthy of the time that it took up in its media cycles. Sure, it was a bad example choice (and a repeated one), but the premise that Clinton was calling for an Obama assassination is stupid on its face and even dumber when you get into the details of reality. Clinton is a hard-edged political gladiator, but she's also a human being and deserves a little leeway and a little respect. Olbermann would have been fine if he had amended his special comment to a smaller line-item in his countdown and then just let the thing pass so that he could cover the actual news.

I've personally been a big Olbermann fan for a while, but I was certainly being put off by that specific special comment because I hate hate hate hate hate hate the false outrage that spins all over cable news, and I was saddened by Olbermann's apparent willingness to join those ranks.

Then we got this:

A clinic on how to execute the special comment from the man who started it all. Understated, relevant, well-researched, and flat out fearless. That's what we need more of Keith.

I'd much prefer to have seen this SC about "context" outside of the context of Olbermann's recent gaffes, but then I'm just glad things like this hit our air (and our internets) in the first place.

If I were Olbermann's producer I'd tell him "do more like that one, but do fewer overall"

1 comment:

el ranchero said...

It is a good comment, and I'm glad to see someone on the TV calling attention to McCain's un-"seriousness" on foreign policy, though I do wish these special comments were a little less breathless and affected. Then again, that's the nub of my problem with Olbermann, and why I probably wouldn't watch his show if I did have cable. There's a little too much opinion in his news for me, even if it's opinion I tend to agree with. It's a realization I came to after listening to Air America and quickly becoming bored with it. I get much more detailed and profound commentary from print sources (newspapers and blogs) than spoken word sources like cable news could ever provide. It just isn't conducive to the format.