By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Eric Boehlert’s fierce media criticism will be missed

Eric Boehlert. Photo (cc) 2019 by kellywritershouse.

Some years ago Paul Bass, the founder and editor of the New Haven Independent, gave me a stack of clips to help me understand that city’s media landscape. One piece I remember especially well was a masterful, in-depth magazine feature on New Haven’s newspapers written by a young reporter named Eric Boehlert. Headlined “Nightmare in Elm City,” it was published by Inside Media in 1990.

I wish I could put my hands on that piece right now. Because earlier today I learned some terrible news: Eric had been killed by a train while riding his bicycle Tuesday night in Montclair, New Jersey, where he lived. He was just 57 years old. (Oddly enough, I was in Montclair last week on a reporting trip, although our paths did not cross.)

Eric later made his mark as a liberal media critic for Salon, Media Matters and other publications, and — during the last few years of his life — as an independent writer at Substack. He was a fierce progressive. His final post, published on Monday, took the media to task for failing to highlight the strong job growth that has taken place under President Joe Biden. He wrote:

Biden is currently on pace, during his first two full years in office, to oversee the creation of 10 million new jobs and an unemployment rate tumbling all the way down to 3 percent. That would be an unprecedented accomplishment in U.S. history. Context: In four years in office, Trump lost three million jobs, the worst record since Herbert Hoover.

Yet the press shrugs off the good news, determined to keep Biden pinned down. “The reality is that one strong jobs report does not snap the administration out of its current circumstances,” Politico stressed Friday afternoon. How about 11 straight strong job reports, would that do the trick? Because the U.S. economy under Biden has been adding more than 400,000 jobs per month for 11 straight months.

Boehlert was also an early champion of the left blogosphere, which was a significant force in Democratic circles 20 years ago and helped fuel the rise of Howard Dean in 2004. In 2009 I reviewed his book “Bloggers on the Bus” for The Guardian, calling it “a reliable, entertaining guide” to an era that’s now all but gone.

Eric’s voice was an important one, and he will be greatly missed. My condolences to his family and friends.

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  1. Donna Halper

    Dan, I didn’t know. I went back years with Eric– to his Salon days. A gentleman, an excellent writer, one of the good guys. This is heartbreaking news. Condolences to his family.

  2. Rae Francoeur

    Thank you for writing this fine piece, Dan. What a sad story. My condolences to the family.

  3. Cheryl Heuton

    I knew Eric at Inside Media. He was one of the most dogged, clear-headed and thorough reporters I’ve ever met. When he became interested in a topic, he researched it in depth and at length, whether it was the decline of independent radio stations, the waste of water created by suburban grass lawns, or corruption in the media industry. He was serious and earnest, yet light-hearted and kind. He believed in journalism as essential to a just society. His work was an honor to the profession.

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