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Hey, How'd You Write A Tell-All Book on Glenn Beck?

Alexander Zaitchik talks about convincing Beck's colleagues to go on the record and shares tips for penning an in-depth portrait of a high-profile personality

By Daniel McCarthy - March 2, 2010

-Photo by Joseph Gamble
As a freelancer and investigative journalist, Alexander Zaitchik has held editorial roles at the Prague Pill, New York Press, and Russia's infamous rabble-rousing rag, The eXile. He's covered everything from mass murder sprees and radioactive contamination in central Russia, to the plight of small farming communities fighting Shell Oil in northwestern Ireland.

Yet, during talks with Wiley & Sons for possible book ideas, Zaitchik settled on one that was strangely foreign to him: an in-depth investigation on the rise of Fox News and conservative talk radio megastar Glenn Beck. Because Beck was just on his way to becoming a media sensation, Zatichik first gauged reader interest with an article for AlterNet.org, asking, "Is Glenn Beck the Orson Welles of Our Time?" Zaitchik recalled, "I wasn't expecting much response, but the piece went gangbusters; it was the most popular article on the site for the week, had the most forwards, etc. I sent Wiley the numbers, and my editor, Eric Nelson, said, 'Let's do this.'" A three-part series for Salon followed, and now the forthcoming tome Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance (Wiley, May 2010) promises to be the first serious examination of the burgeoning media titan and his roots.

Zaitchik spoke with mediabistro.com about convincing Beck's colleagues and friends to open up on the record, which controversial subject he's tackling next, and how someone who has primarily covered foreign subjects suddenly found himself neck-deep in a project that -- for good or ill -- is entirely American....

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