Home > Arbitron, Brand, Ethics, Management, Programming, Radio, Talent, Uncategorized > T.K.O. – Olbermann Ego or Ignorance?

T.K.O. – Olbermann Ego or Ignorance?

There are lessons to be learned from Keith Olbermann who is suspended indefinitely for violating the NBC News Division ethics policies by making political contributions to three democratic races. 

Lesson #1: Read the ethics policy at your company. If you don’t know what it is or wonder if you’ve signed one – ask your boss or HR department.

Talent at operations like NBC, CNN, ESPN, and others are required to read and sign acknowledgement of the companies ethic’s policies. My experience is that most talent sign without reading. It’s critical to know what can land you in trouble with your company. In this case, and knowing what a smart guy he is, I believe that it is likely Keith was very aware of the policies, but disregarded them intentionally, not to be a rebel, but because his personal convictions and passions trump all. This is not the first time Keith’s ego has landed him in hot water. The shame in all of this is Olbermann could have a signed a waiver disclosing the contributions to G.E. in advance and wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.

Lesson #2: All talent are replaceable

In a blink of an eye a company will yank a talent off air, if they aren’t in line with the brand or if their ethics are publicly called into questions. We see this all the time in radio. ESPN Radio has done this in several markets where top ranked talent were not renewed based on brand management and not ratings. Think before you act and always ask yourself, “Am I willing to lose my job over this?” If the answer is yes, then all bets are off.

Lesson #3: The more popular you become, the more people try to tear you down.

Keith Olbermann is a polarizing and popular host. His detractors are far more outspoken than his supporters and, because of that, people are always looking for ways to humiliate, embarrass, and punish him. In this case, Politico.com was first to uncover the campaign contributions and Olbermann, wisely, confirmed the report.

Lesson #4: Own your actions.

The real honorable part of this story is that Keith didn’t try to hide or lie about what he did. When confronted, he went on the record and confirmed the report. He is keeping a low profile and letting others debate if the punishment fits the crime. By doing this, he’s become a more sympathetic character. There are petitions flying around the internet to get him back on the air and his cohorts at MSNBC are coming to his defense.

Two interesting side notes to this story…

1. In the wake of the mid-term election, where the democrats were slaughtered,  everyone is talking about left-leaning MSNBC.  

2. By announcing these violations against NBC News Department’s ethics policies, NBC has inadvertently characterize Olbermann as a journalist and “newsman” in direct conflict with my opinion of him as a commentator and entertainer. I always thought of Olbermann as more of a Walter Winchell not a Walter Cronkite.

  1. November 6, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    Good points. Certainly reinforces the need for folks to read the ethics part of an employment contract.
    For many years, I have believed Arrogance comes from the lethal combo of Ego and Ignorance. When the ego gets out of control, folks tend to do some ignorant things. Clearly, KO has made an ignorant move here. Like you wrote, he owned it and will wait to see what happens..

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