Alex Beam Offers the Worst that Media Have to Offer

Reading all of the online commentary about Alex Beam’s hatchet jobs on weblogs, I saw someone point out (and I want to amplify), Beam’s use of one of the most detestable journalistic constructs — manipulating people to fit the story that journalist’s want to write rather than what the world presents them.

Now, I don’t mean to argue that journalists should be “objective” or “unbiased,” but rather that they cross a line when have a new article already formed in their head and go about manufacturing that story with behind-the-scenes wizardry that the marks in the audience never see.

Beam does an excellent job of making James Lileks look like a moron. Beam writes,

Bestirred by my uncharitable inquiry, Lileks demonstrates that he does have something to say. ”Oh, no. You’re not going to write one of those clueless old-media `blogging phenomenon’ stories, are you? My Bleats are just end-of-the-day remarks. That’s all. Granted, I’m not writing about deathless issues such as the movie rights for the story of a Providence mayor” – ouch! – ”but now and then a few notes on the war just slip in for the few dozen readers interested in the subject.” Lileks also writes for the soon-to-be-extinct newspaper medium and signs off on his message with this comradely quote from Elvis Costello: ”I wish you luck with a capital F.” Double ouch!

The first time I read that through my main reaction was what a pompous ass Lileks is. But, in fact, Beam essentially manufactured the quote he wanted by sending Lileks an incredible rude e-mail which was likely to result in this sort of response. Here’s the text of the e-mail Lileks says Beam sent him,

James, weren’t you once a talented humor writer? Why are you churning out this web dreck? I can’t tell if these bleats about Rod Serling or the Palestinians are diluting your humor work, because I can’t claim to know it well enough, but I certainly have my suspicions.

Feel free to respond: I am writing a column (deadline: Monday 11 am) on bloggers who might benefit from a less arduous writing schedule.

Alex Beam, Boston Globe

Beam wasn’t interested in learning about webloggers and writing about them, he wanted to right an incendiary-filled column and so e-mailed a very rude message to Lileks. Then he gives Lileks’ response without reproducing his own e-mail, making Lileks come across as an idiot. (Beam does say his e-mail to Lileks was “uncharitable”, but that’s way past uncharitable where I come from).

This is the sort of game that reporters play that make people dislike them so much.

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