Tag Archives: Alex Beam

Three Globe stalwarts move on

Brian Mooney. I took this photo in late 2007 at a Rudy Giuliani campaign event in New Hampshire. He was covering it for the Globe and I for the The Guardian.

Brian Mooney at a Rudy Giuliani campaign event in New Hampshire in 2007.

One morning in February 2000, I was killing time at a conference center in South Carolina, where I had showed up at a campaign event for George W. Bush. Sitting on the carpeted floor, banging away at his laptop, was Glen Johnson, then with the Associated Press.

I was covering the media campaign. The press that year was in love with the insurgent Republican, John McCain, whose caravan I had connected with earlier in the week. Johnson and I talked.

“The Bush people really feel that McCain has gotten a free ride, or an easier ride than Bush has,” he told me. It was a telling quote, and it made its way into the story I was writing for The Boston Phoenix.

Johnson, who worked two stints each at the AP and The Boston Globe, got his start in Massachusetts at The Sun of Lowell and The Salem News. On Thursday, he announced that he was leaving the Globe, where he was politics editor of Boston.com, in order to take a senior position with incoming Secretary of State John Kerry.

“It is a humbling opportunity, especially in these turbulent times,” Johnson wrote, “but one that I embrace with relish.”

And thus departs another piece of the Globe’s institutional memory.

The big departure during the past year, of course, was that of Globe editor Marty Baron, now executive editor of The Washington Post. But other veterans have continued to trickle out as well, with Johnson being only the latest.

Two more who will be missed:

• Brian Mooney, a longtime political reporter who covered the national, state and local scenes with aplomb. Mooney is as accomplished a writer as he is a reporter.

I still remember a piece he wrote on former Boston mayor Ray Flynn’s frenzied Primary Day sprint in his failed 1998 congressional campaign, and I wish it were freely available online. Mooney was also an outspoken union advocate when, in 2009, the New York Times Co. threatened to shut down the Globe unless it could use Garcinia Cambogia extract for some $20 million in union givebacks. (The Times Co. eventually got its way.) I still consider this to be a legendary moment in Media Nation history.

Mooney stuck around for one last presidential campaign and retired shortly thereafter. Several weeks later we found ourselves sitting next to each other at a Harvard event honoring the late Globe columnist David Nyhan, and Mooney clearly seemed to be enjoying himself.

• Alex Beam, a veteran lifestyle columnist who was among the Globe’s very few writers who could make you laugh. Beam took a book leave last year and decided during a round of downsizing that he’d rather retire than go back.

In 2003 Beam wrote a column about three writers named Dan Kennedy. I’m DK1, and he describes the dilemma I faced launching a book alongside a get-rich-quick artist (DK3) and a humorist with a McSweeney’s connection (DK2).

“I planned to stay on the deck ’til the ship went down, but managers apparently wanted the budget cut more,” he recently told me via Facebook. “We were all ‘targeted’ for ‘voluntary’ buyouts, and many were happy to have them.”

• Finally, the paper’s terrific editorial cartoonist, Dan Wasserman, has sort of left, but not in a way that will affect readers. He has retired from the Globe, but continues to work out of 135 Morrissey Blvd. as a contract contributor.

“More freedom for me, less overhead for the paper,” Wasserman told me, also via Facebook. “I do a Sunday local cartoon and continue to draw syndicated cartoons that the Globe picks up several times a week.”

More: I’m a political junkie, not a movie buff. But I shouldn’t let pass the opportunity to note that Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Wesley Morris departed for Grantland recently.

Photo (cc) by Dan Kennedy. Some rights reserved.

Beam and Kennedy, together at last

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam and I both have book reviews in the new issue of Columbia Magazine. Me first. I wrote about “Bad News: How America’s Business Press Missed the Story of the Century,” edited by Anya Schiffrin, director of the International Media, Advocacy, and Communications program at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

The book is a collection of essays and articles that examine whether the media could have done a better job of reporting the disintegration of the American (and world) financial system in advance of the 2008 collapse. My conclusion, based on the evidence Schiffrin presents: yes, but it’s naive to think it would have made all that much difference in the age of “Squawk Box.” We believed what we wanted to believe.

Beam has the fun assignment: “An Accidental Sportswriter,” by Robert Lipsyte, who made his bones at the New York Times yet somehow found himself fending off both Rupert Murdoch and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz in a later incarnation at the New York Post.

The highlight, at least for me, is Beam’s recounting of Lipsyte’s gently worded but devastating observation of how the sainted A.J. Liebling was so skilled at getting good quotes. I’ll be thinking about that all day.

Alex Beam’s new alter ego

Never mind Mr. Fussy. Following his snarky take on citizen media today, Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam has been redubbed Mr. Grumpy by the redoubtable Jay Rosen.

Unlike the clueless Timothy Rutten, I suspect Beam is waiting for the hate to roll in like a 6-year-old waiting for Santa. This should be worth watching. Although is it possible that, so far, no comments have been posted to his column?

Not that Dan Kennedy

Several people have asked me recently about a Dan Kennedy who’s traveling the area and reading from his new book. It’s not me. It’s him. And, oh, there’s a third Dan Kennedy who writes books, too. I’m really glad I’m not him, but I wouldn’t mind having his money.

Alex Beam once wrote a pretty funny column in the Globe about the three of us, but it’s no longer freely available on the Web. So you’ll have to take my word for it.

Did I mention that you can buy my book? (Or you can read it for free if you’d like.)

The Obama difference

To quote Alex Beam, I write this with my head, not my heart. I don’t have a dog in the 2008 presidential hunt. But I’m mystified by Beam’s assertion in today’s Globe that Barack Obama is this year’s version of Howard Dean, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley and Bruce Babbitt.

Dean, Tsongas, Bradley and Babbitt were all utterly without charisma; Dean and Bradley came across as rather unpleasant fellows to boot. Tsongas, Bradley and Babbitt got a big boost from media types who were suckers for their cerebral, moderate politics. (Yes, Bradley ran as a liberal in 2000, but that wasn’t his reputation as a senator.) Dean was the darling of the netroots, but actual voters never warmed up to him.

By contrast, Obama oozes charisma. His campaign’s biggest asset, by far, is himself. Members of the Beam Quartet were small-timers trying to break into the the big time. Obama is a big-timer who may not quite be ready.

Obama may or may not be chosen as the Democratic presidential nominee. But if he’s not, it certainly won’t be because he’s suffering from Howard Dean syndrome. And unlike the Beam Quartet, if Obama falls short, I suspect he’ll get another chance somewhere down the line.