Keith Olbermann Off the Air … and Back on Again

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Tomorrow ends the strange, short saga of MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann getting kicked off of the network due to his giving $2,400 each to three Democratic candidates.

Once upon a time, no print or broadcast journalist worth his or her salt would have even considered donating to any politician. Hell, most of them were so concerned about objectivity that they declined to vote. Today, the ones that do that are old school, like the Newshour’s Jim Lehrer or the Washington Post’s former executive editor Len Downie. Everybody else is off having barbecues with the Obamas.

But these days what passes for journalism, particularly on the cable news networks, is suspect.  Fox News leans decidedly right, MSNBC decidedly left, and CNN reads Twitter to us. There are not too many broadcast journalists remaining who can claim objectivity, and Olbermann is certainly not one of them. Moreover, he’s not trying. Anyone who has watched Countdown even once knows exactly where Olbermann stands, and that’s exactly what he’s paid to do.

Thus, this Olbermann situation sounds fishy to me. Was MSNBC President Phil Kent – or anyone — really shocked and upset that Olbermann had contributed to Democratic candidates, or was Kent upset that Olbermann a) was caught contributing b) didn’t tell him about it first and c) felt stupid?

Either way, Olbermann has managed to come out looking like the victim and Kent like the bad guy.

In his “Mixed Media” column, Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici writes: “What’s more than clear is why Griffin reversed himself last night, unsuspending his star host after a mere two days: That’s how long it took Griffin to realize that Olbermann’s worth to the network exceeds his own.”

PopEater’s Rob Shuter reports that Olbermann went so far as to demand an apology from his bosses, and basically got one: “‘Keith is furious about the way this has all been handled and insisted that MSNBC bosses apologize to him before he would agree to return,’ a network insider tells me. ‘Keith sees himself as the star of MSNBC, the person who put them on the map and discovered fellow network anchors Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. To be treated like this by the network he helped shape, he considers disgusting.’”

In the end, though, what this situation really illustrates is that the line, if one even exists these days, has become so blurry that no one can see it. Who is a journalist and who is a commentator and what is the difference between the way the two can behave? The Associated Press does a good job of outlining this debate here.

“It’s getting harder and harder to draw the lines in general,” the Poynter Institute’s Kelly McBride told the AP. “The public doesn’t spend a lot of time differentiating between commentators and journalists.”

If the public doesn’t spend time making that distinction, should the media?

In other Fates News:

Alyssa Corcoran has been named SVP of communications for NBC Universal TV Networks and Digital Distribution. Corcoran will report to Bridget Baker, president of NBCU TV Networks Distribution and JB Perrette, president of NBCU Digital and Affiliate Distribution, and will remain based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. For the past eight years, Corcoran was VP of communications for NBCU TV Networks and Digital Distribution. She joined NBCU in March 2003 as director of media relations. Prior to that, she was senior director of corporate communications for Tech TV in San Francisco from 2000 to 2003. From 1994 to 2000, she was director of media relations for Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta. Corcoran is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She resides in New York City with her husband and their son.

Val Boreland has been promoted to SVP of programming, promotion and multiplatform strategy at Comedy Central, said David Bernath, the network’s EVP of program strategy and multiplatform strategy to whom she reports. Boreland moves up from VP and remains based in New York City. Prior to joining Comedy Central in 2004, Boreland spent ten years at Lifetime Television, most recently as VP of scheduling, planning and acquisitions.

Rob Hammersley signed a long-term deal with Discovery Studios to develop and produce non-fiction content. Hammersley has produced such series as Mythbusters, American Choppers and Weaponizers for Discovery Channel, as well as other programs for other Discovery-owned networks Animal Planet and TLC. He’s also produced series for A&E, Oxygen, Court TV, WE, VH1 and CBS.

TVGuide.com appointed one executive and promoted another. Marcella Regniault, a 22-year veteran of Time Inc., has been named VP of business operations. David Singer has been promoted to VP of product development. Both will report to Christy Tanner, SVP and GM of TV Guide Digital. Regniault most recently was VP of business operations for Time’s Sports Illustrated digital properties. Singer joined TV Guide Digital in 2007 as senior producer.

Paul Schreiber has been promoted to EVP of Carsey-Werner domestic television distribution. Schrieber most recently served was SVP of syndication sales. Prior to joining Carsey-Werner, Schrieber was VP, southeast region and sales manager for BohBot Entertainment. He began his career as an account executive at NBC’s KNSD San Diego. Schreiber also is a curriculum advisor for Pennsylvania State University’s College of Communications.  Schreiber graduated from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, with a BS in business administration.

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