Reporters are supposed to be curious creatures, people who want to learn about anyone no matter their political, religious, sexual or racial stripes.
But not Neil Steinberg from the Chicago Sun Times.
A few weeks back, I noticed a story he wrote about he and his family waiting in a line for gourmet hot dogs on Memorial Day weekend. Sounds like a stupid story, but it wasn’t – I loved it and told him so. I also invited him to be on The Mirror‘s weekly Twitter show, #LinesOffTheMirror to learn more about him and his blog, which has a name I really like: Every Goddamn Day.
Except Steinberg wanted nothing to do with an interview. “Thank you Betsy, that’s very kind of you, but I’m going to pass,” he replied. I don’t typically ask, but I wondered why he wouldn’t do the interview. I had nothing to lose by asking. It just so happens his reasoning had nothing to do with research or him knowing anything about me whatsoever. Instead, it was that I work for The Daily Caller and therefore he presumed that I would look for ways to “malign” him.
“If it makes you feel better, I wouldn’t do an interview with Breitbart, the Drudge Report, or Glen Beck either,” he replied, clearly unaware that Glenn Beck has two “n’s” in his name or that Andrew Breitbart is dead. (I’ll begrudgingly give him the benefit of the doubt that he meant Breitbart News, the site.)
Weirdly, Steinberg and I have things in common: We’re both from Ohio and are both graduates of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Who knew?
So, let’s review. He won’t do an interview with me because I work for The Daily Caller and somehow that’s comparable to Glenn Beck, who I’ve previously called a “world renowned dingbat” and caught a lot of crap for it.
Had Steinberg bothered to do any journalistic research whatsoever, he’d know that I am not a conservative and was once a press secretary for a Democratic lawmaker. I don’t claim to be liberal or conservative. My beats covering the media and gossip don’t require it and I interview people I find interesting, funny or deranged (all three is a real jackpot).
See my email exchange with Steinberg below. It’s pretty enlightening in the age of modern media, where politics can be blinding and brains can be in short supply.
THE MIRROR: Neil, Hi there. I’m Betsy Rothstein with The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. I write a media and gossip blog called The Mirror. I liked your hot dog story. I also think the name of your blog is rather hilarious. I was wondering if you’d be a guest on my Twitter show — it’s a weekly Twitter interview — typically on Tuesday’s at 2 p.m. but we could do this whenever it’s good for you. It’s just 30 minutes. Let me know if you’re interested! Here’s a link to my blog.
MR. STEINBERG: Thank you Betsy, that’s very kind of you, but I’m going to pass. After I went on Bill O’Reilly’s show, years ago, I swore off this kind of thing. I’m sure you’ll be able to malign me to your heart’s content without any of my help.
THE MIRROR: Sorry, but why would I malign you? That’s quite an assumption.
MR. STEINBERG: That’s for you to determine — I’m not a mind-reader. But I am familiar with The Daily Caller, and it’s an assumption I’m willing to make. If it makes you feel better, I wouldn’t do an interview with Breitbart, the Drudge Report, or Glen Beck either.
THE MIRROR: You know, I didn’t realize at first that your reasons were political. But I really think you ignorance knows no bounds. First off, as a fellow journalist, Glenn Beck is actually spelled like that, not with one “n” like you have it. Secondly, do you ever do your homework? Yes, I work for The Daily Caller, but no, I am not a conservative. I worked for a Democratic congressman from Florida when I arrived in Washington. I don’t judge people by their politics as you appear to do. I don’t even know what your politics were. I just liked your story and the concept of your blog and thought you’d make for a fun interview. Instead, you are an ignorant ass. P.S. Are you aware that the Chicago Sun Times has a reputation of leaning conservative? Perhaps people shouldn’t speak to you because of this. Or because you have a Jewish-sounding last name? Because that makes about as much sense as your asinine email to me. And if you’re too dumb to realize it, no, that wasn’t a religious slur — I happen to have a Jewish-sounding surname as well. Idiot.
MR. STEINBERG: You know, I was thinking this morning, “Maybe I was too abrupt with her.” Given how quickly you devolved to name-calling, I think I pegged you just right. Myself, when I want to interview somebody, I don’t quit quite so easily. But maybe that’s why you’re at the Daily Caller, and I’m at the Chicago Sun-Times. Good-bye
THE MIRROR: Oh really. So after you tell me I can’t interview you because I’m on the level of Glenn Beck (please note the two n’s) I’m supposed to beg you or worse, suck up to you? You didn’t peg me just right. You don’t even know me. And you don’t do your homework and displayed yourself to be lacking journalistically. And if you think Chicago Sun Times has some amazing advantage over where I work or anyone else works, you’re an incredibly arrogant human being. Just you writing that is further evidence of how pathetic you’ve behaved this week. So you’re somehow better than me because you a) don’t do your homework b) assume to know what I think politically and c) won’t talk to someone because of their alleged political beliefs. Grow up.
MR. STEINBERG: I’m having such a fantastic day, I wanted to circle back and say I’m sorry for the Daily Caller v. Sun-Times crack. Uncalled for. I try not to descend to the level of others, but your tirade clouded my judgment. The right wing press is deranged and mean, and I don’t always have the time to cull the semi-sane from the rest. Perhaps you’re one of the better ones, perhaps not. Anyway, the name of the game, as the great Warren Zevon says, is to be hit and hit back, so I’ll look forward to what, if anything, you decide to write.
Okay, Steinberg, how about you put your so-called apology to the test, let me interview you and we clear this whole thing up?