Monday, August 27, 2007

The Best Hour On Television

In a program that's a throwback to "old school" television journalism, MSNBC's "Countdown" features a nightly blast that's a welcome and nearly unique venture in major commercial television. Keith Olbermann, who came to fame as a long-time sports anchor on ESPN, takes no prisoners in a nightly quest for facts and intelligent commentary, rather than any pseudo or proclaimed "fairness" so pathetically trumpeted across so much of today's news airwaves.

Olbermann has no qualms about pointing fingers at right-wing heroes including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and especially Fox nemesis Bill O'Reilly. His nightly "Worst Person In The World" section is a visual and aural skewering of the most corrupt and hypocritical in recent news.

His lack of love for Fox News seemingly knows no end, as Olbermann readily points to the fact that founder and head Roger Ailes was a former crony of Richard Nixon's, as he alternates between calling it "Fixed News" and "Fox Noise" on a continuous basis.

My favorite Olbermann story of recent months was his reporting of the White House attempt to downplay (on Fox News) President Bush's usage of the phrase "stay the course" when referring to his Iraq war policy, claiming it was a "great story" and had only been used "eight times". Within a few hours Olbermann's staff found no less than 29 occasions where Bush had offered "stay the course".

Olbermann has also called on Bush and Vice-President Cheney to resign, blasted Rudy Guiliani for claiming only a Republican president (namely him) would prevent terrorist casualties, and set out to prove (and did) whether Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice simply lied when she claimed President Clinton "left no strategy to fight Al-Queda".

What is different about Olbermann are his use of key elements in journalism that have been largely left behind in an era where "fairness" means presenting "both sides of an issue" no matter how absurd or factually unsupported, with research into history and a willingness to point to facts as being just that. Facts.

Olbermann also points to the nightly dose of celebrity news he is made to report as being what it is, as almost not worth hearing in the first place, as compared to other networks spending weeks of airtime devoted to such breathtakingly "relevant" subjects as the death and custody "battle" of Anna-Nicole Smith and child.

We can only hope Olbermann's "Countdown" remains on the air as an alternative to the celebrity-filled gossip and milquetoast reporting otherwise consuming so much of our video bandwidth.

Keep up the good work.

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