Posted by: thescoundrel | November 7, 2010

Olbermann – Dodo Bird or Pariah?

A lot of people work under the bonds of a contract with their employer. Some contractual limitations and/or expectations can also make life more complex in your personal life. If you choose a company or career that requires a contractual bond between you and your employer, then expect negative consequences if you violate clauses of that contract. That said punishment can vary depending upon a lot of variables. It is not uncommon for management to have gray areas where they often look the other way -depending on the severity of the offense- following many violations. That gray area is frequently expanded or narrowed depending on the value of an employee to a company. Those very same clauses can be used as a nudge or a bludgeon.  Once again it depends what the company is trying to do – make a point or terminate the individual. Which brings me to today’s musing. What is behind the MSNBC suspension of Keith Olbermann.

I am not a fan of Olbermann or his show. Still I question the actual stated reasoning -making campaign donations jeopardizes his journalistic integrity- for his punishment. Evidently the donations do violate his contract. I do not agree that the donations suggest journalistic corruption. Especially since the amounts donated hardly balance with the  penalty management seems to be imposing. Some media sources are already saying that the inside MSNBC scoop is that Olbermann will not return. So what you have to ask yourself – Why Fire the man over a handful of donations? It is not like Olbermann’s political inclinations are not common knowledge. He is a talking head for a liberal leaning news corporation. If they were really worried about  journalistic bias – then his show would not be produced with the material and content that is the substance of the show. I am inclined to believe, they are after Olbermann for a different reason. If they are seeking to terminate Olbermann’s contract,  my guess is that the company is seeking to simplify termination by using the clause violations as a bludgeon.

There are many reasons they could be looking to rid the network of Olbermann. He could have gotten caught playing games in the wrong executives playground.  That can get you fired in a heartbeat, no matter how important you are to a company. The network could be rethinking the direction of the company and this is the start of a corporation renovation. That is a huge possibility since the current MSNBC format takes a beating  in the news rating wars, that create advertising value for each show and company. It could be that Olbermann’s constant bickering with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, while getting crushed by the O’Reilly Factor’s ratings, has taken a toll on Olbermann’s value. Olbermann does have a huge contract and what better way to get out from under it, than by firing him for a contract violation. Maybe there is a personality conflict with another employee, the company values more. Plus I am sure there are other cheaper -fresh face- options available to MSNBC to fill his spot in the lineup. Can you say Rachel Maddow?  I am sure there are several reasons they may want rid of the man – whether he has become a pariah or simply a dodo bird that has outlived his usefulness. Only management probably knows the actual reasons. My opinion is that they are just looking to unload Olbermann’s contract for an unstated reason and Olbermann gave them the method they needed to do just that with his violations. It happens and is an unhidden danger of any contract. People with large egos tend to ignore the fine points of their contract until it gets them into trouble. Management pretends to not notice many lesser violations, until they need a reason to punish an individual. I have been down that road on a personal level. It feels like a kick to the groin. Is it fair? Maybe, maybe not. It is just a fact of life. The reality is – if you sign any contract- be prepared to have any personal violations of the contract; used against you during conflict or during a company shake-up.


  1. There has to be more to the story, but I doubt we’ll ever hear about it. Since the liberals didn’t raise a big stink when Juan Williams got fired, they won’t for Olbermann either. And he doesn’t have Fox to fall back on.

  2. Not that I plan on watching but he is supposed to return to his show tonight. It sounds as if there was enough uproar MSNBC has decided not to fire him. The funny part – some of those Fox news people he is always bashing were busy tossing him vocal support over the punishment. I do not know if it will sink in to his gigantic ego – but this was a clear message from management that they are looking to rid themselves of his services. There are constant rumors that new ownership is considering major changes at MSNBC.

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