A word about Keith Olbermann

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Last night a CNN commentator referred to Keith Olbermann as "mercurial" and "volatile".  This was minutes after Keith announced his abrupt departure from MSNBC. I'm not sure why the negativity was necessary, why Keith's critic felt that he had to repeatedly tell viewers what a difficult person he thought Keith was, especially after Keith was so gracious in his brief closing comments.

Perhaps it was that particular punditiot's way of informing us of how "in the know" he was, or maybe he thought some catty insights would draw more viewers to CNN. Whatever his reasons, David Shuster countered them by being reasonable, measured, and factual. And Keith countered them nightly with his on air professionalism. What happened behind the scenes shouldn't matter when the quality of a show's content is consistently high. If programs and personalities were judged by back stage drama, then half of the series I worked on would have been canceled.

That said, I'm hearing all kinds of speculation about why Keith Olbermann was let go, and until he speaks for himself, I'm not going to assume any of them are correct. However, I do want to share why his departure is going to leave a very painful, gaping hole in my life, and many of yours.

Keith affected me personally, as well as professionally.

Professionally, he would tweet breaking news that I could then share with our readers before most other outlets could. He would do the same on his show: break news, analyze, and educate us. Read that part again: Educate us. Very few on air personalities do that, and Keith did it regularly, whether it was during an enlightening interview, a Worst Persons segment, or a Special Comment. I always found a nugget, something I hadn't heard before.  Now I worry that we'll all be less informed due to his absence. I didn't always agree with him, but that has little to do with feeling less informed.

This is no small thing. TV news has been increasingly  and woefully inadequate for years, but Keith examined topics others ignored. He was the one who opened our eyes to Janet Brewer's personal "death panels" as she allowed the heart wrenching, jaw-dropping elimination of funding for transplant patients. He was the one that helped raise millions of dollars for public health clinics. He regularly directed our attention to stories that might not otherwise be covered. Now his voice is temporarily silenced at a time when we need more pertinent information, not less.

Personally, he would gently correct me if I made an error in a post, or would share what I wrote by retweeting me when he felt it was worthy.  I hope he continues to monitor what we do here at TPC, because his sharp eye and high standards are valued.

Finally, he made me aware of something so important, so crucial to my family that I will never be able to thank him enough. It started with his heartfelt series of reports about his father's declining health, which led him to plead with us to attend to our own families' end of life paper work and decisions. I listened attentively to that, and I acted on it. Because of his public appeals to all of us, and a few private messages he sent me, I am now secure in knowing that my own family, and my 91-year-old dad, will have been well taken care of.

I am eternally grateful for Keith's private words of comfort and reassurance, and for his thoughtfulness in asking us to heed his words, to plan carefully and stop procrastinating, no matter how difficult a task it is to make end of life decisions.

No other political show host has done that that I can recall, none has taken the time to nudge us into a painful reality that affects us all, and then beg us to take action on a purely personal level, and finally, to share his own excruciating, bittersweet story to make the point.

Thank you for that, Keith. Now hurry back.

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  • DanaShadow

    Damn straight! Because really, how can we as Americans proclaim to want to HELP people avoid crime and thusly prison, if we keep glamorizing it?

  • Anonymous

    Excellent. Everyone who's praised Keith's work seems to have a better handle on the words I want to say, but can't seem to find. Come back soon Keith!

  • http://twitter.com/dcdNYC DonnaDee

    Reading about your conversations with Keith about elderly parents has made me tear up all over again. I had to make the decision to disconnect my brother from life support in 2001. I've lost both my parents to long illnesses, my mom as recently as five years ago. I felt Keith's pain as he moved forward while losing his parents. I don't know how he did it.

    While hearing about Countdown put a hole in my heart that will take a while to heal, I'm beginning to realize that Keith's place is off cable & network - away from ratings, away from a--hole network execs and corporate entities.

    Instead of having the debate about how he covers the Democratic National Convention, he can SPEAK at the Democratic National Convention. Instead of being suspended for making campaign donations, he can be one of the top Progressive fundraisers!

    I'd caution the Republican and Tea Party twits not to celebrate too much. Just like Obi Wan Kenobi cautioned Darth Vader, "You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. "

  • ILfireguy

    Thanks for everything Keith! I am a firefighter/Paramedic and let me say how much we appreciate your support of the 911 healthcare bill. You were one of the few sources of reason in todays media and we all noticed. Though I do have one request; Don't Stop!!!! In a world of Karl Roves, Sarah Palins, Bill o'Reillys, and Glenn Becks we will need a truthful voice to refute their propaganda, and hold them accountable for their false logic and irrational statements. Though my vote is my true voice, you vocalized our concerns in the mainstream, becoming a truthful force of nature that few could contest. Thanks again, and I know that i will see you later.

  • Oudiva

    I, too, feel that I've lost a friend with Keith's departure. He single-handedly got the ball rolling on all those free health clinics, but then gave the credit to his viewers rather than grabbing it for himself. His Special Comments were scathing, insightful, and above all, well written. Good writing is becoming rarer all the time these days. Good luck, Keith; don't leave us in the dark for long.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. My sentiments exactly. After a hopefully short hiatus, Keith will be back. He's versatile and invaluable. And we already know, based on Countdown's nightly viewership totals, that he has over a million-strong following, kind of a much larger Dumbledore's Army, spanning all age groups.

    After his dad's passing, I wondered if Keith would stay or go, but by adding the Fridays with James Thurber segment, in memoriam, I was thankful that he decided to stay, even though the past year must have been tough for him personally.

    In my view, he has always been gracious, and accurate, and funny, and informative, and often hit his stride when calling out the "bombastic" buffoonery at Fox "Big Lie" News as well as other silliness, right or left. In the interim, maybe Keith will do some new "Special Comments" for YouTube distribution. Or maybe he'll setup his own version of Huffington Post or Talking Points Memo, but of his own brand, like Countdown was. Or maybe he'll go back to his first love, sports, and exit the political arena for awhile. His eight years of taking on the establishment, talking truth to power, was exemplary, so maybe he'll just kick back and relax.

    Anyway, someday I hope someone asks him if there was any special meaning in his final James Thurber selection. Answers? Questions? Two dogs? A porcupine, whose quills were mistaken for "knives" by one of the dogs? Somehow it seemed appropriate coming immediately after he announced that Friday would be his final Countdown program on MSNBC.

    Good luck, Keith. And God speed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/AquaBuddha-Jones/100001693537603 AquaBuddha Jones

    Way to raise the discussion there, bu-u-u-uddy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/AquaBuddha-Jones/100001693537603 AquaBuddha Jones

    My baby brother is an Illinois Tea Partier. He's head over heels about Olbermann leaving, as if he and Fox News and Neal Boortz and Andrew Breitbart are responsible. My brother knows nothing about what Keith was actually about, he only knew what the Intertube ditto-heads spewed. It saddens and sickens me that Keith's departure (whatever the reasons) will only serve to strengthen the feeling or invincibility and righteousness that the right wingers will feel.

    A void has been created and I don't see another voice stepping up to fill it. A multi-millionaire speaking up for the "little guy" and taking an interest in, and advocating for, those of us that can't buy our way into the discussion is a rare thing these days. We need Keith back specifically for his ability to speak for the powerless against the interests of the powerful.

    Don't make us wait too long.

  • MIT_PhD

    I have never been on this site before - just trying to find others who are grieving the loss of Keith and Countdown. I much appreciate Goyya Laff and commenters echoing many of my own thoughts and feeling. As one commentor said, when I found Keith I felt like I was home. It is not an overstatement to say that every weekday I looked forward to coming home and firing up the DVR to hear "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?" Somehow hearing that made me feel beteer - even when I knew it would at times be followed by stories that sometimes filled me with anger and despair. Somehow hearing Keith gave me the courage to go on - to get on the sites - to volunteer - to make politcal contributions - to not give up in the face of what at times feels like overwhelming odds. And to continue to fight the good fight. I so hope that whatever contractual deal has been made it does not keith off the air for too long. While I much enjoy hearing others on MSNBC, somehow it is Keith - his voice - his demeanor - etc. that both inspires and informs.

  • Sdgsg

    fuckign idiot

  • http://twitter.com/ivanafter5 Ivan After 5

    I'm upset too Laffy. Thanks for stating it so well.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Thank you so much. And thanks to everyone for their input!

  • http://twitter.com/Jymn Jymn

    Thank you for that lovely post Gotta, a wonderful bookend to Keith's own classy exit. He will be back and better than ever. He is a survivor, a fighter and a champ.

  • Anonymous

    Amen to that.

  • http://twitter.com/MeLoseBrainUhOh W. Brian Tucker

    People are so quick to dismiss Keith Olbermann as just the Left's version of Bill O'Reilly. But Bill O'Reilly would never take the time to do something this for one of his fans...not unless the cameras were rolling and he needed an extra chapter to stick in one of his books.

  • Baxterblogs

    Laffy,
    Well said. He will be missed. But I'm sure he will be back soon. He is too important to be silent. Thanks for this post.

  • http://twitter.com/tickle_b Kim

    Thank you for that Laffy. We so need his candor and education in this unstable time. I, myself, have learned so much from Keith and hope we see him somewhere again very soon.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Many thanks. <3

  • Colierrannd2

    Well said Laffy. I am still gathering my thoughts on what I'll post on this but you've set the bar pretty high here.

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    GREAT idea!!

  • ProChoiceGrandma

    I would love for MSNBC to replay all of Countdown on weekends and get rid of those damn prison shows.

  • SeattleDan

    So very well said, Laffy. Thank you.

  • ProChoiceGrandma

    I would love to see Keith Olbermann start an online news blog "OlbermannPost", wouldn't you? We need a news source with Truth in news that he gave us on Countdown. Huffington Post is supposedly "liberal", but I constantly find the articles, and especially the titles, are leaning too far to the right. The moderators at HuffPo constantly allow RWNJ atrocious comments about President Obama, but seldom allow biting comments about Sarah Palin. I find I have to water down my comments about her until it is worthless to even bother.

    GottaLaff, thanks you for your lovely post about Keith. He was the person who inspired my interest in politics.

  • Anonymous

    my weeknight evenings are going to be rough. this could be like quitting smoking all over again.

  • ProChoiceGrandma

    If anyone thinks Comcast had nothing to do with firing Keith Olbermann, let's refresh our memory.
    In May 2010, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said: 'Let's have that conversation in 6 months or 12 months,'

    "'Are you saying that you'll never interfere?' he asked. Mr. Roberts blanched slightly at the question, which included a hypothetical situation that had Keith Olbermann, an MSNBC host, attacking a couple of Republican congressmen just as the approvals were being finished. 'Let's have that conversation in six months or 12 months,' Mr. Roberts said.""

    http://www.truth-out.org/bernie-sanders-wants-nbc-comcast-merger-stopped-following-olbermann-suspension65046

    Right on schedule, Keith was fired within that 6-12 month reference. Comcast doth protest too much?

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Not sure this was about Comcast. See link in this post to original breaking
    news of his leaving plus this:

    http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/22/olbermanns-msnbc-exit-was-weeks-in-the-making/?smid=tw-nytimes

  • James Douglas

    I couldn't belive what I was hearing last night and have been depressed ever since. Corporate America, this time in the form of Comcast, has stiffled another voice of dissent. There are so few left who are unaffraid to speak truth to power. This is a very sad time for political discourse in America.

  • ProChoiceGrandma

    OLBERMANN GONE FROM MSNBC. Sign the "Thank you, Keith" statement and pass it on. http://bit.ly/f5JMLK @KeithOlbermann @BoldProgressive #P2

  • DrSyn001

    "What happened behind the scenes shouldn’t matter when the quality of a show’s content is consistently high."

    But the problem is, if he's going to have personal issues with bosses and co-workers, ratings and ideology ultimately don't matter. It's interpersonal relationships that seem to sink Olbermann every time.

  • http://twitter.com/JAMES_X_ JAMES_X_

    The sudden departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC really was disingenuous on the part of Comcast. It displayed no sense of caring about the countless viewers Olbermann had. There was no indication of this departure through tweets or other rumors. I suspect there is something more larger than a mere contract dispute . Either way for his fans , this akin to if the Yankees suddenly took a bat out of the hand of a Derrick Jeter while he is at the plate with bases loaded, no outs, and ahead by 5 runs and leaving the fans with them scratching their heads .

  • http://twitter.com/Packy89 Patrick Malone

    Nice piece, Laffy.

  • http://twitter.com/stone_circle stonecircle

    Well played! *golf clap*

  • http://twitter.com/kraftytess Tessa

    Laffy, once again you have eloquently put into words what so many of us feel. Thank you for your own generosity in sharing how Keith helped you and your family. His leaving has put a giant hole in my evenings. I hope he will find a place from which to speak to us again. I will follow wherever he goes!

  • Anon

    I have faithfully watched Keith for the 8 years that he was on MSNBC, it will be a great loss to me not to see him and his quest for the truth. I wish he could let us know if he has plans, where we can see or listen to him, I certainly hope he will still fight for democratic causes, perhaps he could help to get democrats elected in 2012!

  • http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/ GottaLaff

    Thank you all. I'm pretty upset. His show was important to me, to say the
    least, as is he.

  • http://twitter.com/Blatz12 Duane D

    Beautifully Done!

  • http://twitter.com/wicketwarwick Jeremy Hall

    I've teared up more than once...watching Keith's Special Comments. Whether it be about family, country, or compassion, Keith could always pull my strings and touch my heart. I will miss his nightly confirmations that I'm not the only one who thinks "that woman...is an idiot" (and other well delivered messages). I hope we get to see Keith again soon, because until then his point of view, his angle, and his opinions will be just another notch on my belt of things that I have taken for granted...until they were gone.

  • http://twitter.com/ReasonVsFear Leesa Brown

    The first time I saw one of Keith's Special Comments... I felt like I had finally found home.

  • http://twitter.com/jazzcattrio Elizabeth Kennen

    So beautifully written, Laffy...and right from the heart.

  • http://twitter.com/francie57 Frances Ryl

    Wow, great piece, you put into words exactly what a lot of us feel about Keith Olbermann and
    his ability to keep us informed. There is now one less voice on the tube. He always did his best to get
    the truth out. I hope to see or hear him somewhere in the very near future. If he's mercurial or volatile, it's fine by me, shows he is passionate about things and it's all good! He always apologized when he made an error, he is a great talent and he will be back.

  • http://twitter.com/ReasonVsFear Leesa Brown

    Beautiful. Thank you!

    Keith feels like family to me, and has introduced me to a whole group of beautiful human beings I would otherwise not have known. Wherever he lands, I'll be there. I will always stand with him.

  • http://twitter.com/snarkadelia Cate

    This is the truth.

  • Janeeperry

    Indeed.