BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith recalls what it was like working as a young reporter in Belarus in 2001. One of his first major stories resulted in his source being beaten and thrown in jail — or so he thought, until he discovered the truth more than 15 years later.
On Tom Lehrer, one of the most influential people in comedy who abruptly stepped away from the spotlight:
He began performing internationally in 1959, when the Palace Theatre in London asked him to perform the first two Sundays in May. “In England in 1959, you couldn’t put on a play, [on Sunday] so the theaters were closed,” Robinson recalled. “But you could put on a concert.”
Lehrer filled the 1,400-seat theater both weekends and was a big enough hit that they kept him on through the end of May, after which he booked several more performances throughout England in June and early July.
Yet despite his enormous success, global popularity, and the release of his second album, More Songs by Tom Lehrer that year, it was exactly at this time that Lehrer first told Robinson he wanted to stop performing. Lehrer has told friends and various interviewers that he didn’t enjoy “anonymous affection.” And while his work was widely enjoyed at the time, it was also something of a scandal — the clever songs about math and language were for everyone, but Lehrer’s clear-eyed contemplation of nuclear apocalypse was straightforwardly disturbing.
The editor of BuzzFeed remembers a friend, colleague and fearless journalist. Hastings died Tuesday in a car crash in Los Angeles, at age 33:
“Michael Hastings was really only interested in writing stories someone didn’t want him to write — often his subjects; occasionally his editor. While there is no template for a great reporter, he was one for reasons that were intrinsic to who he was: ambitious, skeptical of power and conventional wisdom, and incredibly brave. And he was warm and honest in a way that left him many unlikely friends among people you’d expect to hate him.”
Richard Ben Cramer’s “What It Takes” is now widely considered the greatest modern presidential campaign book. But the judgments of Washington’s elite come late to Maryland’s remote Eastern Shore, and the book’s place in political writing has dawned only very late on its author. When it came out in the heat of the 1992 campaign, the tome dropped with a heavy thud. It was viewed as eccentric, affected, too long for its boring subject. Who, four years after he lost, wanted to read 100 pages on Dick Gephardt’s childhood?