(apologies in advance if this is something of a blurt)
Last night, I think that something in American media died.
Whatever reality emerges as 'fact' in the wake if Keith Olbermann's sudden, indeed, precipitous departure from his flagship MSNBC programme, it is difficult to see how the media landscape can be enriched by this event. Yes, there is a proliferation of Internet sources that cater to not merely left-leaning audiences, but to those of us who prefer our news to be built on fact, rather than on ham-handedly spun webs of illogic. No, I'm not sure that any of them are quite enough.
There has always been something in Mr Olbermann's presentation that I thought that I recognized. At times bombastic, as was his privilege, and occasionally taking what seemed to me to be the wrong emphasis on a topic, there was something familiar in his voice, something which resonated with me. A man who cited the life and work of Spike Milligan, for example, to my mind was of the same stripe as me. And yes, he also rekindled a liking for James Thurber in me too. And even if the Thurber segment was born out of his own personal tragedy in the death of his father, even his handling of that painful moment demonstrated what seemed to me a very dignified, and human, response to the realities of life and living, without descending into maudlin sentimentality or the crassly offensive platitudes of the religious.
Yes, the constant summoning of the ghost of Bill O'Reilly (link to him yourself, I'm not going to help his traffic) was a bit overmuch. The vile excrescence that is Glenn Beck likewise, Olbermann's anger and obvious bewilderment that some of the more vile people on the media and political scene of late had careers, never mind followings, was a reminder that we as members of a notionally-advanced western society have a right to demand more of our public figures, certainly more than what we are getting now.
Many people are just stunned. While Twitter burst to life on the announcement, other media was, at first, more muted. It's more likely the fact that so many people are bound by their contracts to keep quiet, like Rachel Maddow, the super-intelligent and sparkling Olbermann protege, who was a guest on HBOs Real Time with Bill Maher when the news broke. The LA Times has a good précis in this morning's edition, but it seems to add little to what broke last night. Even Fox, which announced his departure with ill-restrained glee and are certainly no more gracious winners than they are losers, covered this story with their usual half-addled blend of journalism and spittle-flecked venom.
Finally, I wish that I could draw some other conclusion than that the sinister hand of Comcast was behind this, despite their immediate denial. Sometimes a denial is true, sometimes it is merely convenient and plausible. No one who knows can tell us, so let the speculation begin. Start feeding the rumor mill. If there are other conclusions to draw, let's have the evidence, but it just looks bad. In fact, you'd think a media company would have more sense about appearances and timelines, unless they're incompetent, or contemptuous. Which is it, then?
In the meantime, what to do with MSNBC? Reward them for this in some way? I both watch the channel (thankfully not on Comcast, who ever thought I'd be grateful for Time Warner?) and listen to their Sirius satellite feed when I drive (despite the rubbish adverts that they run). I consume two - well, now one, I guess - of their podcasts. And I won't immediately abandon the Rachel Maddow Show, nor Lawrence O'Donnell, for whom I am developing a taste. But I will be suspicious. And, ultimately, turning off the Telly and reading a book is often a better way to learn things. So take that, Phil Griffin and co.: you get ambiguity and a tentative sense of suspicion and betrayal. From your base. Happy?
Finally, thank you, Keith, if i may be so familiar. It has been a good run, and I've appreciated what you have done and tried to do. Your exit, whatever the motivation, was dignified and premature. Best wishes.
The Countdown website is still up for the moment. Enjoy it while you can.
Good night, and good luck.