Friday, April 08, 2005

The Mitch Albom Mess

Ah, the perils of taking a second sick day in eight years. Not that this is directly related to my job, but work is where I tend to see stuff, so I missed a Big Story yesterday. is certainly adequately discussing Mitch's preprint column on the Final Four -- containing a lot of references to things that should have happened and then didn't -- and they're in a frenzy at Romenesko in the letters section, too. My quick take on a horse that's already out of the barn? Mitch is an extreme talent; he also did something very wrong here. And while I don't think he should have referenced editors in his apology -- more classy had he not -- editors who read this and went to the point of letting this go out on the wire in this state, and a policy where a newspaper does preprints such as this so it can have its columnist "live" in the Sunday paper, have to bear a lot of responsibility, too. A lot of lessons to be learned about the state of modern -- well, modern a lot of things -- writing, reporting, production.

Lessons, some would say, that anybody in this business should have learned all these lessons long ago.

No, I don't think Mitch should be fired. But I'll say this -- suspending somebody whose column is only one of many outlets is kind of an empty punishment.


Anonymous said...

"Extreme talent"? That was a slip, I hope.

If one is among the masses to whom Albom blatantly panders, lapping up his calculated prose and finger-in-the-wind take on the world, then perhaps Albom seems like a "good writer."

If, on the other hand, one actually runs a website devoted to the craft of sports writing and editing, how in tarnation can one consider Albom to be anything but a hack?

And no, this isn't "professional envy," of which some Albom naysayers are being accused. There are plenty of successful writers whose work I respect, and whom I am proud to tout. This is more like professional perplexity -- years of wondering why in the world Mitch Albom gets heralded as a literary master by those who should know one when they see one.

There's absolutely nothing about Albom's style, voice or facility with language that qualifies him as an "extreme talent." Nothing. There are columnists at midsize papers from Charlotte to Kansas City whose work is far better executed and engaging on a daily basis than anything Albom does.

I'm not alone in being long bewildered by Albom's reputation or by his big cache of awards. Many of us out here have been wondering for ages just what it is that some people see in his work.

It would be akin to watching Bruce Willis win Oscars year after year. While a big chunk of the public might accept such a scenario ("Well, 'The Siege' was a good flick!"), others of us would sit around scratching our heads.

I realize this post risks coming off as elitist, but that's not my intent. I'm not blasting populist tastes, whether "Die Hard 4.0" or "Tuesdays With Morrie." I'm simply confused by the acclaim Albom has received from certain folks who I presume would know better.

Then again, maybe what you mean by "extreme talent" is not that Albom's a great writer by any accepted standard, but that he's gifted at the art of patronizing audiences and dumbing down his work. If so... Yeah, I guess he's extremely talented.


Tell you what. I threw that line i there as a gesture of at least some respect for a guy who's been doing this a long time and who has a lot of fans.

But because many share your opinion ... let's just say that he's an extremely "decorated" talent, and leave it at that. Fair enough?