By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Times takes on Barry Nolan v. Bill O’Reilly

Keith Olbermann

Brian Stelter of the New York Times weighs in on the matter of Barry Nolan versus Bill O’Reilly, quoting me while so doing. Here is what I wrote for the Boston Phoenix about Comcast’s firing of Nolan in 2008, and here is Terry Ann Knopf’s recent Columbia Journalism Review piece on Nolan’s wrongful-termination suit against Comcast.

Comcast, you may recall, fired Nolan from his talk show on CN8 after he organized a protest of a local Emmy award for O’Reilly. Comcast could soon find itself to be the proud owner of NBC Universal, which would put the company in the awkward position of doing business with other networks (including O’Reilly’s employer, Fox News) as a cable provider and competing with them as a content provider.

Which is to ask: Will MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann be the next Barry Nolan? Comcast president David Cohen and Olbermann both tell Stelter no. I hope they’re right.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Steve Stein

    Why should Olbermann be in any trouble? He’s got a decent-sized audience, so isn’t the Olbermann-O’Reilly thing a win/win (driving up both audiences)? If Nolan had any kind of numbers, my guess is Comcast wouldn’t have fired him.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Olbermann-gets-fired is clearly a worst-case scenario. But don’t overlook the fact that Olbermann’s audience and (MSNBC’s in general) is tiny in comparison to Fox News. How much money is MSNBC really making? Is it enough for Comcast to put its far-more-lucrative cable business at risk?

  2. L.K. Collins

    I see that in Dan’s thesis, asses don’t get passes, the left wing ass is an exception no matter how thoroughly he fits the description.

    Keep at it, Dan.

  3. C.E. Stead

    DK – this really does seem like apples and oranges.

    Bill O’Reilly most likely needed it explained to him who Nolan was, and I question if he even noticed the protest, much less was upset by it. Olbermann is a national figure who should learn that poltics and government aren’t a football game to be called.

    Comcast most likely used Nolan’s boorish behavior to dump a money losing local show. Olbermann provides much of what revenue MSNBC has – other than Kudlow, I can’t think of a show I watch there.

    If networks are being dumped over profitability, look for EWTN and Oxygen to go long before MSNBC.

    • Dan Kennedy

      “I question if he [O’Reilly] even noticed the protest, much less was upset by it.”

      @C.E.: You would think so, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong. Read Knopf’s story.

  4. Laurence Glavin

    I see you’ve swallowed the right-wing trope (or is it meme?) that Keith Olbermann’s audience is (as you put it “tiny”). A visit to will reveal that for the most recent night available as I type this, Wednesday, September 30th, K.O. garned 1.8 million viewers for his two showings; admittedly the O’Reilly Sphincter garnered twice that, BUT 2-and-a-half million of his 5 million total were in the 35-64 age group. It’s my observation that Keith runs a faster, smarter show, with more polysyllabic words and compound-complex sentences than does Droopy Dawg. The Scoopter Store(tm) audience can’t keep up.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Laurence: 1.8 million is tiny by television standards, though not by CNN standards. It will be interesting to see what Keith’s numbers are now that he’s no longer rebroadcast at 10 p.m. — which is the only time I *ever* watched him. Bad move by MSNBC, in my view. By the way, 5 million is nearly three times 1.8 million. As for demos, have you paid attention to the commercians on MSNBC? Maybe a little younger than Fox’s, but not by much.

  5. Rick Peterson

    @Laurence:”O’Reilly Sphincter”? “Droopy Dawg”? The Algonquin Roundtable is officially dead, eh? (I believe the term you were searching for to describe those 35-64 year-olds is “voters”.)

  6. BP Myers

    It would be hard for me to believe Bill O’Reilly doesn’t know who Barry Nolan is. Way I remember it, they both worked in Boston at the same time, and Barry Nolan and Evening Magazine were a far bigger deal in this town than O’Reilly ever was.

    In addition, they were competitors when Nolan hosted Hard Copy and O’Reilly hosted Inside Edition.

    In fact, I always assumed Nolan’s quixotic attack on O’Reilly was more than just for his political views. Just seemed to have an air of the personal about it.

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