Media reporter and movie star David Carr takes on a giant ego in a feature from this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, posted online today, about Current TV host Keith Olbermann. After Olbermann’s unceremonious exit from MSNBC, the loudmouth anchor spent most of year the silent except for on the internet, where he yelled a bunch and berated random bloggers, blog commenters and political enemies, like he used to do on television. But starting this week he’s back on the air, albeit to much fewer viewers, and so in the ramp up, he gets the big profile treatment in a premiere weekly magazine. Unfortunately, for all of Olbermann’s bombast, this one is bombshell-less, mostly more of what we already know. More inside Press Clips, our daily media column, plus Anthony Weiner’s own stake in the Times and new rules for working at The Daily.
Blowharding: Olbermann’s narcissism, well-documented for most of his career, is again on display in this story, as is his antagonism, especially toward Fox. In one anecdote, from a Mets-Yankees game, we get both:
Olbermann looked beyond him, peering into center field.
“Switch seats with me,” he said pleasantly. “I want to be in the Fox Sports shot of home plate. They usually cut it off right here,” he said, indicating the arm of the seat between us. “It’s fun to mess with them.”
Not only were we inches away from the field, but Olbermann was on television, messing with the heads of his sworn enemies at Fox. It was a wonderful place for him to be, second only to that lone seat in front of the camera. He has missed it.
The rest is Olbermann boilerplate about his diva attitude and need for control, leading constant fights with employees and bosses alike and, eventually, bad professional breakups. Al Gore and his co-founder at Current TV Joel Hyatt are asked if they’re worried about Olbermann’s reputation to which Hyatt responds, “We accept that that is part of the package that you get with Keith. It will be a roller coaster. He’s a provocateur. He provokes people into anger, to love, to action.”
It’s almost identical to the reservations the ESPN had back in the day when they grabbed Olbermann from CNN. In a new oral history of the sports network, anchor Bob Ley explains:
I still remember the lunch when [executive vice presidents] John Walsh and Steve Anderson were deciding whether they were going to hire Keith. I said, “You’re aware of his reputation, aren’t you?” They said, “Oh, it’s not going to be like that. He’s not making all that much money.” I said, “It’s not a function of money. Know what you’re buying.” When he arrived, Keith had one thing in mind: It was Keith. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that.
Overall, the ESPN history is the more salacious look at Olbermann, allowing his old coworkers to get a little vicious, where the Times Magazine is largely tame, or just exceedingly fair. Olbermann responded to the piece on Twitter: “Well at least there’s another caricature amid the cliches.”
There was a rumor a few years ago that maybe Keith would come back, and one of our coordinating producers said, “I think it would be a good idea but with one caveat. He first has to stand in the reception area, and everybody who wants to gets to come up and punch him in the stomach.”
Diversifying Bonds: As it turns out, Congressman Anthony Weiner has investments of between $1,001 and $15,000 in the New York Times, which has been no friend to him lately, constantly covering (as we all have) his sext scandal.
The report from the Center for Responsive Politics also shows, for some perspective, that Sen. John Kerry has at least $100,000 invested in media companies, including News Corporation, owner of Fox News.
“If congressmen are investing in the New York Times, does that filter into the newsroom?,” a journalism ethics expert wondered to the OpenSecrets Blog. “What happens is that it does raise red flags.”
Leave NYC, Get a Job: The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper, is hiring reporters “across the country” after staffing up heavy in New York City. But here’s the catch: “We’re looking for real journalists – not content farmers. If you fit the bill and have real chops, keep reading.” We’re talking serious business! Not that website skills would do you much good at the “paper” anyway, considering they don’t have a real one.