RIP Eric Boehlert. His voice will be missed.
Reflections on one of the foremost progressive media critics of our time, gone suddenly and too soon.
I had something else written and ready to go for today’s newsletter, but in a strange twist of fate, it drew significantly from what would turn out to be Eric Boehlert’s last piece. So it feels appropriate to instead write a few words about why I think his voice will be sorely missed, especially at this time.
If you haven’t heard, Boehlert passed suddenly late Monday at age 57. The terrible news was announced Wednesday afternoon on Twitter by Soledad O’Brien, who said he died in a bike accident. While details remain scant, reports later emerged that Boehlert was fatally struck by a train in Montclair, New Jersey.
I didn’t know Boehlert personally beyond occasionally exchanging DMs with him in recent years, but he was among a leading group of progressive writers I’ve been reading online for what feels like forever. After starting out as a music journalist, he wrote for outlets including Media Matters, Salon, and Daily Kos (he also wrote two books), and since January 2020 he published his work in his Press Run newsletter on Substack. He sent me a nice note wishing me well when I started with Vox in 2018. Coming from someone I had been reading for years, it meant a lot to me. And as I was considering leaving Vox to go solo last fall, the work Boehlert was doing for Press Run served an example of what I hoped Public Notice could become.
He had an impressive ability to metabolize political coverage across a range of mediums, including print and TV, then synthesize it in columns featuring lots of specific examples to flesh out his often provocative arguments. Boehlert described Press Run as “fearless media commentary,” and it wasn’t false advertising. I appreciated his refusal to pull punches, his willingness to call out anyone and everyone, including the MSNBCs and CNNs of the world — something left of center media watchers sometimes shy away from because they don’t want to damage professional relationships.
Boehlert’s last post — Monday’s “Why is the press rooting against Biden?” — is a fitting testament to his skills. It’s rich with examples of how outlets like CNN and the Washington Post trampled on last Friday’s strong jobs report by framing stories about it around inflation (“Why A Great Jobs Report Can’t Save Joe Biden” read a CNN headline) or unspecified anxieties people have (“Biden Gets a Strong Jobs Report, But a Sour Mood Still Prevails” read one in the Post). He went on to connect the negative tone of that coverage with recent polling showing a plurality of Americans believe Biden has actually presided over job losses, when in fact he’s overseen historic gains.
Sunday’s “Meet the Press” round table featured two segments with assembled pundits. One focused on how immigration might be a problem for Democrats in the midterms, the other on how Trump might be a problem for Democrats in the midterms. As usual, Biden’s historic economic record was ignored.
That’s why, according to a recent poll, 37 percent of Americans think the economy lost jobs over the last year, when its gained 7 million. (Just 28 percent of people know jobs were up.)
Virtually all the Beltway coverage today agrees on this central point: When it comes to the economy, Biden’s approval rating is taking a hit because Americans are freaked out by inflation. But maybe it’s taking a hit because Americans are under the false impression that jobs are disappearing. Voters don’t know what they don’t know because the press isn’t interested in telling them about record job success and an economy that’s years ahead of where experts thought it would be coming out of a global pandemic.
It’s hard to argue with any of that — and still hard to process that piece is Boehlert’s last. His voice and insight, which has been a constant presence in my corner of the internet for well over a decade, will be sorely missed.
Perhaps most importantly, Boehlert’s sudden passing is a reminder that none of us should take tomorrow for granted. By all appearances his Monday was a normal day of tweeting, writing, and radio hits, and then he was gone. It’s tragic and my heart goes out to his wife, children, family, friends, and fans.
That’s it for today. I’ll be back with a special edition tomorrow.
I have a little Friday treat lined up for paid subscribers that’s quite a bit lighter than my usual fare. Teaser: if you’ve ever been a fan of professional wrestling, you’ll probably enjoy it.
Talk to you then.