Shock report: Olbermann not getting along with new network

Follow the timeline here. On December 29, the Times noted that he wasn’t scheduled to anchor Current’s coverage of Iowa or New Hampshire and would therefore be “sitting out the biggest political nights of the season.” Not true, countered Olby:

On Thursday afternoon Mr. Olbermann suggested that Current’s published plans might not be accurate. When a reporter asked him via email why he was not participating in the Iowa caucus coverage, he answered, “That’s not my understanding. We’ve already prepared a ‘Best Of Countdown’ for Monday, and are planning a live Countdown on Tuesday.”

That’s the plan that Mr. Olbermann told his viewers about on Dec. 22, his last live program of the year. “We’ll be bringing you Best of ‘Countdown’ each night from tomorrow through Monday, Jan. 2, and then back — live, live, live — on Tuesday, Jan. 3,” he said. He added, “Congratulations on getting through another year of this crap. Good night and good luck.”

Cut to five days later, just hours before the caucus results started rolling in. A fan tweeted him to ask whether he’d be anchoring the coverage after all, to which he replied, “headed into the office now.” The Times was wrong! But … no, actually, they weren’t. Another terse tweet followed a few hours later: “So as not to mislead: I am informed Countdown will not be on tonight, I must defer on all questions to @JoelHyatt @AlGore and @Current.” So the Times was right. Or was it? According to a Current spokesperson later in the evening, “We asked Keith to be the sole anchor and exec producer of our primary and caucus coverage beginning tonight… Unfortunately, he declined to anchor or participate.”

Why would a guy billed as the network’s “Chief News Officer” decline to cover the first big result of the presidential campaign? Over to you, Hollywood Reporter:

“I was not given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable conditions,” Olbermann said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “They know it and we know it. Telling half the story is wrong.”…

Apparently [Current TV President David] Bohrman, upon learning that Olbermann had assembled his staff for a show that would be pre-empted sent a memo to Countdown staffers to clear up the “misunderstanding.”…

Representatives for Olbermann did not immediately elaborate on exactly what “acceptable conditions” would entail. But it’s no secret that Olbermann’s show has had its share of technical snafus. And this is a source of frustration, say sources.

In early December the studio lights went out while Olbermann was on the air, prompting him to return the following evening with a candle.

Follow the link and scroll down to read Bohrman’s memo to the “Countdown” staff. Key phrases: “As we assumed Keith had communicated to you” and “We tried several times to have Keith participate in our coverage.” How can it be that the staff thought they were doing a show last night when the entire world, thanks to that NYT story, believed days earlier that they weren’t? Surely management would have stepped in to clear things up between last Thursday and Tuesday; did a certain someone “forget” to pass along their instructions to the “Countdown” team? And who leaked Bohrman’s memo to the Hollywood Reporter? Was it one of the staffers, annoyed at the confusion and/or brinksmanship between Olby and management, or was it management itself as a way to counter Olby’s fingerpointing? Hard to believe Current would have let the staff operate under the impression that they were going to do a caucus show up until the very last minute, only to pull the plug. Maybe “someone” decided to call everyone in despite management’s orders, start putting together a show the way he wanted to do it, and then dare the brass at Current to tell him he couldn’t go on the air with it. Or maybe this is yet another case of tyrannical cable-news execs trying to tell a genius how to practice his craft and then besmirching him when he insisted on doing it his way. It happened at Fox and MSNBC, right?

Exit question: If/when this parting of the ways happens, would CNN dare take a chance? Gotta do something drastic to get those primetime ratings flowing.