Bloviators and bomb throwers

M.L. Elrick, a former Free Press investigative reporter and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, delivered a few solid body blows to one of his erstwhile co-workers this week, business writer Tom Walsh.

Elrick, who's now at Fox 2, used his Facebook page to rightly take Walsh to task for a recent Freep column about the volatile "Right to Work" issue.

(We put term RTW in quotes because something sour rises in our throats every time we type the words. We hate the Orwellian deception inherent in the term. The bills that the Legislature just rammed through in record time and the governor signed with equal speed has nothing to do with anyone’s ability to find employment. It is all about weakening the power of unions, both at the bargaining table and in the political realm.)

Walsh, unfortunately, didn’t much delve into the nuances of RTW (check out this weeks MT cover story if you want that), instead penning an inane piece that pooh-poohs the outrage that drove more than 10,000 union members and their supporters into the streets of Lansing to protest.

“Right-to-work is the wrong issue for such a ruckus,” wrote Walsh, declaring that the disgruntled members of the working class should focus their attention on something really important, such as education.

Elrick, a die-hard union guy while at the Freep, responded with a FB post that said, in part:

“Tom, there are a couple things here you either left out or got wrong.

"First, you didn't disclose that you are a free rider at the Free Press ? someone who has consistently declined to join the Newspaper Guild while enjoying the benefits your dues-paying colleagues have worked so hard to preserve.

“Second, you question the value of union membership. As you well know, the Guild has saved jobs at the Free Press while helping the company save money.”

Smack and double smack. Good on you Elrick.

Picking up on the slam was Deadline Detroit writer Jeff Wattrick, who went ballistic on Walsh’s lame ass in a piece that appeared on the Wonkette website. Wattrick showed none of Elrick’s restraint, tagging Walsh for being an  “intellectually dishonest nitwit” and a feckless, brown-nosing hack ...”

Seems like Gov. Snyder, who was not exactly in favor of RTW before flipping his flop and enthusiastically embracing it, might have been right when he previously worried that it could be a divisive issue. We use the qualifying word "might" because, like Walsh, we don't want to stick our necks o far out here and take an actual position that might offend someone. Who knows, maybe those thousands and thousands of union workers and supporters who stormed the Capitol don't reflect any actual divisiveness. Maybe they just didn't have anything else to do, like stay home and worry about the state's troubled education system.

In terms of media, the cherry on top of all this came when some ventured onto Wattrick’s FB page to chide him for what they described as his juvenile name-calling. Among those weighing in was Nancy Kaffer, a once upon a time a reporter here at the MT who has hit the semi-big time by becoming a columnist for the Freep.

“We’re on a mission to civilize, dude,” Kaffer lectured Wattrick.

And there you have it, the gaping chasm between the mainstream and the new stream.

In terms of serving society in a high-minded sort of way, Kaffer’s certainly right. But we also know who’s more fun to read.

Go get ‘em Jeff.

That’s entertainment, and its not gong to go away.

What’s truly lamentable isn’t the bomb throwing, it’s the steady erosion of commitment to actual investigative reporting, the real dirt digging done by reporters like Elrick and his Pulitzer-winning compadre Jim Schaefer.

You know — people who, instead of trying to civilize or entertain, just want to do the hard, time-consuming, democracy-protecting watchdog work that's supposed to be the responsibility of what used to quaintly be called the Fourth Estate. That afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted ethos that drives an ever-decreasing number of journalists to uncover real corruption and malfeasance committed by those in power and positions of influence.

But maybe that’s just us being feckless bloviators ourselves, without the fun or entertainment value.


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