Friday, February 16, 2007

the ascendancy of Keith Olbermann.

Whomever thought Keith Olbermann wouldn't survive or thrive when Countdown debuted on MSNBC has been proven wrong; my usual reading turned up this tidbit posted on the Daily Kos: Olbermann has not only been renewed for a four-year contract, he is going to submit pieces for NBC Nightly News and do two specials on the NBC broadcast arm a year.

I referred to a post with Stephen A. Smith on CNN to what I call the Olbermann Rule: sportswriters with an interest in news take a different approach to the medium than those who make their marks in political journalism, communications, or the spin wizards that emerge from political campaigns and are somehow deemed worthy of op-ed columns or television news-magazine programs. There is less bullshit tolerated, because the world of sports has measurables: who won, who lost, and the statistics for measuring why teams win and lose as well as why players do well or underperform are lined up.

While those stats, much like the arcana of politics, used to be the exclusive parlance of those in the know, you and I have access to them now. The same goes with the development of the Internet for political junkies -- we can cross-check, reference, and Google our way to a coherent argument. Those in journalism who do not catch up to it are bound to fall flat in their research.

Olbermann has carved out a niche in this reality, by having a crack staff on hand for the sort of analysis that we rarely see in politics but is honed most of the time by the better beat writers, columnists, and bloggers in the sports world. It's no surprise that he's become something of an Internet sensation in that regard, and it's a credit to MSNBC and their head Dan Abrams* that they recognize it.

(*Note: I've met both Abrams and Olbermann, both due to my mother working in the broadcast news biz as a producer. I met Abrams when he was an MSNBC legal analyst working the Oklahoma City bombing trial in Denver. I was a gofer for a few days in downtown as a summer job, getting coffee, lunch, and observing the obscene set-up needed to produce these things. Abrams was a very nice fellow, and it's nice to see his name attached to this. As for Olbermann, he was the sports anchor at KCBS in L.A. while my mom was a producer there.)

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