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Albom’s Albatross 

I see that Mitch Albom is coming to Bend in September. He’s promoting a new book and I’m guessing he’ll spend a fair amount of time telling people how important he is.

Mitch and I were in the same union (Newspaper Guild Local 22) back in 1995 when his employer, the Detroit Free Press, demanded concessions from union workers and forced them out on strike. My employer, the United Auto Workers union, provided material support to the Detroit newspaper strikers, as did our Guild unit in the UAW’s Public Relations Department.

Albom immediately showed his allegiance to the boss at a well-attended union meeting where he demanded that everyone return to work. His suggestion was rejected and a few days later Mitch broke ranks and scabbed.

As a darling columnist at the Free Press, Albom made a lot more money than the average union reporter and the folks who worked in production, printing, circulation, etc. He wasn’t going to suffer from any of the concessions the Free Press demanded.

It wasn’t that he needed the money, Albom told other Local 22 members. It was that “his” readers needed his words. Ah that Mitch, always thinking of other people first. Albom also told the strikers that he would make regular contributions to the strike fund from his hefty salary.

Old news? Yeah, I suppose. But, union folks don’t forget.  Albom sold out the rest of the workforce so he could live large while they stuck to their principles and managed on strike pay and odd jobs. And Albom’s pledge of strike assistance was just his imagination. You could call it a lie.

Ten years later, in 2005, Albom actually got suspended by the Detroit Free Press for telling a lie. After he roundly criticized fellow journalist Jayson Blair for making stuff up, Mitch got busted for, yup, making stuff up.

An internal investigation showed that he frequently lifted quotes from other writers without attribution. One reporter told Editor & Publisher that Albom not only lifted quotes, but changed them to make them livelier. Sound familiar? Jonah Lehrer, another best-selling writer, recently lost his job at The New Yorker for doing the same thing.

Mitch has survived it all, won himself fame and fortune, even started a few tax-deductible charity organizations. I’m sure he’ll tell folks all about it. If there’s one thing Mitch Albom likes to talk about its Mitch Albom.

Does he still make stuff up? I don’t know. If you go see him, ask him.


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