The marginally employable Mr. Olbermann.
Back in the mists of time, when I was learning the journo trade, I was "disabused" of my romantic notion that the most highly prized writers and illustrators were the most brilliant ones. Uh no. The contibutors most highly prized by editors were those who (a) reliably met deadlines and (b) were easy to get along with. I don't imagine that prima donnas are easily suffered in any walk of life.
Because Keith Olbermann's departure from the airwaves was abrupt, and his "Countdown" lead MSNBC in ratings, there's been much talk of a right-wing conspiracy to squelch this voice of progressivism. As so often is the case, there is no conspiracy. The abrupt parting of ways was, in fact, about a year in the negotiating.
At each of Olbermann's many places of employ, he has been "high-maintenance," to say the least. As this NYT backstory recounts, Olbermann tried the patience even of his stoutest defenders with MSNBC during his eight-year tenure at the network. I particularly like the closing sentence in the NYT report, quoting an anonymous source at NBC News saying, "Give us a bit of credit for getting eight years out of him. That's the longest he's had anywhere."
I only raise this - and I've been a fan of Olbermann - because it's been a lack of humility that has done in so much great talent over the decades. At some point, a director finds an actor just too much trouble for her latest film (for which the actor would otherwise be perfect), or a veep leaves out an extraordinarily talented person from a team project she's assembling because of "people issues." (The passed-over individual would be at everyone else's throats). Too many bosses, myself included when I was one, kept a mediocre but easy to deal with person on board when a daring innovator would have better served us all, save that the genius would soon have driven us over the edge.
So if you're wondering why mediocrity seems too often to rule the day, here's a reason. The alternative just isn't worth the day-to-day grief. This is hardly an apology for ubiquitous mediocrity, just an explanation.
Photo: MSNBC handout