Current events report: As Keith Olbermann leaves infant cable network, tales of dysfunction emerge
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Word came amid a late Friday news dump that Keith Olbermann had been let go from Current TV, the nascent channel founded by Al Gore that had hired him a year earlier in a bid to build its brand into a liberal cable-news powerhouse.
The writing had been on the wall for months, as recent reports surfaced of tensions between Current brass and the famously truculent anchor, who exited MSNBC last January under similarly acrimonious circumstances. Olbermann was on Twitter within minutes of the announcement from Currents executives, spitting venom right back at them. He warned of legal action and said that "joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one."
This morning, Olbermann's chroniclers are out with follow-ups about the bitter divorce, which leaves a struggling cable network without the star that many believed would save it from burning out, and Olbermann, once again, without a job.
"Because he gave [MSNBC and Current] confidence to hire other hosts with liberal views similar to his, his hasty departures from the channels may not matter all that much," writes Brian Stelter, summarizing interviews with a dozen industry sources about Olbermann's legacy. "What matters is that the channels exist at all. Now, liberal journalists and pundits who were inspired by Mr. Olbermann’s invectives against the Iraq war and the Bush administration five years ago have multiple channels to appear on and potentially be paid by — a marketplace, in effect, for liberal talent on television."
Meanwhile, Howard Kurtz dug up some internal emails that shed light on the cooling of relations between Olbermann and management.
"Some of the disputes are fundamental—such as missing days of work—and some sound petty, but they add up to a portrait of a dysfunctional alliance that was doomed from the start," he writes. "Where Current management viewed Olbermann as a chronic complainer who had clashed with the bosses before leaving his previous jobs at MSNBC and ESPN, the liberal commentator came to believe that he had joined a rinky-dink operation, even if the channel was committed to paying him $50 million over five years."
Of course we've buried the lede: Olbermann's departure ushered in the return of another controversial personality who was fired from a cable news outlet within the past year.
Replacing him at Current is Eliot Spitzer, who CNN canned last summer after he failed to generate strong ratings for a primetime show the network had given him.
Back in October, Spitzer told me he had no immediate plans to get back on the air in a full-time capacity, but that he was having fun doing guest appearances.
"Every now and again I do Keith Olbermann's show when they are kind enough to invite me," he said.
Little did Spitzer know then that the invitation would become permanent. You can watch the intro to the premiere of his new show, called Viewpoint, below:
In other news...
John Koblin's last piece on the media beat takes on "Editors and the 'Cult of the Brand.'" [W.W.D.]
Lucia Moses explains why Bloomberg and Reuters look like the future of news. [Adweek]
Desk re-org at Reuters. [The Baron]
Is Roger Ailes worried about Gabe Sherman's forthcoming Fox News book? [Gatecrasher/Dailey News]
NBC News has launched an internal investigation into its selective editing of the George Zimmerman 911 call. [Erik Wemple/The Washington Post]
David Carr: "Race as an explosive issue is nothing new, but it’s been staggering to see it simmer and boil over in our hyperdivided media environment where nonstop coverage on the Web and cable television creates a rush to judgment every day." [The New York Times]
New guidelines for magazine tablet editions. [The New York Times]
Ryan Seacrest is reportedly nearing a deal with Comcast. [Media Decoder]
Massive layoffs said to hit Yahoo this week. [Kara Swisher/AllThingsD]
Via press release...
- "The New York Times (NYTimes.com) and Reuters (Reuters.com) have come together to launch an exclusive product available to online publishers for coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. ... This newly-developed publishing technology delivers high quality coverage across images, text and video with technology, tools and data displays including modules which can be easily embedded, ready to publish results pages and more."
- "Hearst Magazines will start releasing metrics on its paid digital copies, specifically its iPad editions, today announced David Carey, president, Hearst Magazines. These metrics will include total paid copies, total time spent per reader per issue and average number of sessions per reader per issue."
- "The Wall Street Journal announced today the launch of CIO Journal, a premium news and information service for chief information officers and senior business executives focused on technology. The service provides real-time news, coverage and analysis written and produced by a dedicated team of editors and financial journalists."