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Friday, May 20, 2011

Frank Beckmann vs. Mitch Albom

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 11:16 AM

It is a rare pleasure indeed, listening to two people we’re not particularly big fans of hammer away at each other for a half hour. But that’s just the sort of treat we got listening to Saint Mitch Albom and conservative demi-blowhard Frank Beckmann — both of whom have shows on Detroit’s WJR radio station — go at it over Mitch’s high-profile advocacy for the continued subsidization of the film industry with state tax dollars. Although neither used the word “unethical,” that’s essentially what they were accusing each other of being, with Beckmann claiming that Albom should have been more “transparent” regarding his role as a screenwriter for a movie vying to get some of those tax credits, and Albom lashing back, saying that Beckmann had made unfounded accusations on a previous show without bothering to first check his facts, or run his gripes past Mitch before airing them.

Mitch proclaimed that he’s made no secret of the fact he’s the screenwriter for a movie being made from one of his books (a movie that has just received one of these tax credits in the amount of $2.3 million), and that he’s been fully transparent.

During the back and forth between Beckmann and Albom, things got more than a bit touchy. At one point Mitch declared, “If you are questioning my veracity, you better be careful,” and Beckmann responding, “Don’t threaten me.”

There’s good reason for Mitch, who comes across as petulant and whiney during his appearance on Beckmann’s show, to be so defensive and touchy: it’s because, in terms of journalistic ethics and integrity, he’s at best swimming in gray waters.

Here’s what Mitch clearly doesn’t get (or at least won’t admit to): Sure, as he asserts, he might get the check as a screenwriter regardless of where a movie is made, but to use the platform of his Freep column to advance the cause of an industry he is certainly a part of and then pretend there’s no conflict of interest is at best delusional. Mitch claims it is all about helping Michigan, but that’s not true. It also helps an industry that he is a part of, and its financial well-being contributes to his financial well-being.

For Mitch — who has gone beyond mere advocate and into the realm of actual lobbying — to claim that there’s no conflict of interest is truly ludicrous, and for the Freep to allow him to do it is, even in the most charitable view, certainly dubious.

Interestingly enough, given that we seldom listen to either Beckmann or Albom on the radio, we first learned of this whole brouhaha from a front-page article by Susan Whitall in the Detroit News. That article was picked up by the Associated Press and ran in the Chicago Tribune. As far as we could tell though, the Freep, which spilled a ton of ink promoting Mitch’s play about Ernie Harwell, seemed to have no interest covering the heated controversy surrounding their star columnist.

We recommend that you give the knock-down drag-out between Frank and Mitch a listen yourself. It is available as a podcast at WJR’s website.



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