Here’s a piece of advice if a journalist calls you for an interview: make sure you check said journalist’s Twitter page to see if he’s already made up his mind about you.
It’s advice I myself should have taken. On Columbus Day I got home from lunch at about 3 pm, and found an email from Andrew Beaujon. Beaujon is an arts writer for TBD.com, a start-up “hyper-local” news site owned by Allbritton Communications, which also owns Politico and ABC affiliate WJLA. Beaujon was brought to TBD from the Washington City Paper, a dying hipster weekly whose staff has moved virtually en mass to the new TBD website.
Beaujon asked me to call him, which I did. He was friendly on the phone, expressing interest in a piece I had done for The Daily Caller — “H.L. Mencken was right: journalists are incompetent.” In it I argued that journalists are not intellectually curious, as well as overly sensitive and dishonest. He asked me a series of fact-checking questions — when I had worked where, who was the editor when I was freelancing at the Post, etc. He asked my opinion about some rock music journalists, and we talked about my new book “A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Twice I asked Beaujon what he was writing about — me? Rock music? Journalism? “I don’t know what I’m writing about,” he said. Then he said the entire TBD site was “still trying to figure out what we are supposed to be.”
Still, I had an idea of what to expect. As I have written about in the New York Press and the American Spectator, many City Paper editors, at least when I was freelancing for them in the early 1990s, doctored their stories to make people they didn’t like look like ogres and fools. The case I most remember was when the editor changed a story written by writer Cathy Alter — Alter had been sent to mock a certain young woman, but instead liked her and wrote as much. The editor then changed her copy, against her wishes. The editor went on to TBD — and others from the City Paper went on to jobs at the Washington Post, Slate, and the rest of the liberal media. It is there they are now perfecting their craft.
In other words, I knew — know — I would — will — come out in the piece looking like a tool. What I didn’t know was that Beaujon had made up his mind about me before we talked on the phone, had tweeted about it, and had not had the guts to say so to me. A check of his Twitter feed revealed that, several hours before we spoke, he had this to say about my Daily Caller piece: “Mark Gauvreau Judge doesn’t prove his thesis — that most journalists are stupid — but he makes a sound case that he is.”
Well. But he wasn’t done yet. He then posted this: “Here’s more great writing from Judge: Name-calling, bomb-throwing, book-plugging. Weird they didn’t use him more.” He then linked to this piece I wrote about Madonna and Lady Gaga.
So: my piece on Mencken and journalism proves I’m stupid — which, apparently, is not a form of name-calling, which I am guilty of in a piece about Lady Gaga and Madonna. This is the beauty of the Internet age: you can now click on the pieces Beaujon references and make up your own mind. Read the Madonna piece. I think anyone who thinks that there is nothing of interest in it, that it is nothing but name-calling and bomb-throwing, is a cretin (Whoops! Name calling!).
But here’s the thing: why not just tell me, when I called, that you think I’m full of it? That you read the piece in The DC, weren’t convinced by it, and were going to say so in print? Why not go Gore Vidal on my William F. Buckley?
Over the last few months, if not years, I have made the case, in The Daily Caller and elsewhere, that journalists are ideologues. That they are dishonest. That they have no intellectual curiosity. That they don’t play fair. That they often make up their minds about their subject before they even meet said subject. That they are cowards who use the First Amendment to destroy people they don’t like. And the truth of the matter is that Andrew Beaujon is planning on doing a number on me, or at least making me look like a jerk in a bigger piece about bigger things. And anything smart, funny, insightful or human I may have said in our talk will not make it into the piece — if in fact it was written down at all. In trying to nuke my thesis, he has in fact proven it.
The piece, if it winds up running, will be on TBD.com.
Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including Damn Senators and God and Man at Georgetown Prep. His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.