Friday, February 27, 2015

Everyone loses in Penn State-Olbermann saga

First and foremost, without a doubt and without question, Keith Olbermann was wrong for his mean-spirited, misguided Twitter war in regard to Penn State and the university's annual student-driven dance marathon conducted to battle pediatric cancer.

Olbermann's deep-seeded hatred of all things Penn State, combined with his perpetual ability to think more of himself than anyone else and his proven ability to at some point self destruct, all came together earlier this week. Egged on by a Penn State alumna who had to know she was picking a fight (or at least poking a lion) by contacting Olbermann to begin with, the loudmouth sports host took the bait and then took things too far.

His ability to bully overtook his ability to seek any information or nuance.

Olbermann's approach led to an appropriate suspension, taking him off his namesake show for the week. He'll apparently return Monday, even though the show's ratings spiked in his absence.

Still, in many ways, his actions were predictable, even understandable. It's not hard to argue that he was simply doing his job -- creating controversy -- before he went to far.

Of course, he went to far with his first word, his very first response tweet, but Olbermann has long since ceased being a sports journalist and he was never an unbiased source of information. He's a sports commentator, a clearly talented if high-maintenance and just-plain-mean man. His show exists to create discussion and stir reaction.

Unfortunately, the efforts of a portion of Penn Staters have been just as predictable as the week has progressed. Getting Olbermann off the air temporarily was not enough for them. And, just as the egotistical host could not stop himself when unfairly lambasting Penn State, those who relish his suspension cannot help themselves from piling onto someone they've already seemingly vanquished. Petitions for him to be permanently fired have dotted the Internet and social media in recent days.

Clearly, there's nothing wrong with fans and viewers expressing their opinion. They should flex their muscle and complain when something or someone is wrong. In the media world, though, there's nothing more powerful for those seeking change -- and eviscerating for those at the brunt of an attack -- than irrelevance or silence.

More powerful than petitions would simply be not watching Olbermann's show. Ironically, those looking for him to lose his job probably rarely watched anyway (even though the show has been decent, at times, and seemingly found a niche in the late afternoons after bouncing around air times when it started). Still, like the host, they cannot help themselves and want more.

Through what seems to be a highly emotional process, everyone has lost a little bit.

Olbermann lost more of his credibility (if there was much left) and his job, and those launching complaints have lost their focus, and even a sense (if they had one) of the limits of their responsibility. Yes, he was wrong in so many ways and showed, again, that he's a bully -- just not a good guy. At the same time, getting him pulled because a vocal contingent does not agree with what he said is not a good model. Sincerely expressing those concerns and then simply changing the channel could be even more powerful.