MSNBC's O'Donnell connects with Olbermann's audience

Washington Post

Bill O’Reilly outdraws Lawrence O’Donnell by roughly 3 to 1 each night -- just as he regularly trounced Keith Olbermann. "Nevertheless, O’Donnell has largely retained Olbermann’s million-plus nightly viewers, a tactical victory for MSNBC," writes Paul Farhi. "O’Donnell sounds almost as surprised as anyone by this turn of events."

I’m here for one simple reason. I subbed for Keith and the ratings did not go down. No one can explain to me how the ratings stayed the same. This is entirely a luck business. [Screenwriter] William Goldman said it best: "No one knows anything."

O'Donnell tells Farhi he'd like to do more in-depth work with a broader range of topics, but that wouldn't fly at MSNBC.

If it were up to me, we’d be doing a PBS show. I’m trying to train my show instincts to what works in this environment. There are things that deserve better conversations than we’re capable of having in eight-minute blocks. But a Jim Lehrer show or a Charlie Rose can’t happen here. Mostly, it’s me talking to people who agree with me . . . It’s not ‘Crossfire’ anymore. It turns out what works is op-ed TV, like the op-ed page of a newspaper [rather] than a debate.

> O'Donnell in January: "I barely know what I'm doing; it's an early experiment"

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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