Eric Boehlert, Montclair resident and veteran media critic, struck and killed by train
Montclair resident and veteran media critic Eric Boehlert died when his bicycle was struck by an NJ Transit train Monday, his wife has confirmed to multiple media outlets.
Boehlert is survived by his wife, Tracy Breslin, and two children Jane and Ben, journalist Soledad O’Brien said on Twitter, announcing his death. Soledad said she’d learned of Boehlert’s death from Breslin, and called Boehlert “a fierce and fearless defender of the truth."
“Eric was filled with vibrant enthusiasms and interests in life as a loving husband, father, sibling, uncle and friend,” statement from his family provided to Montclair Local said. “We will miss him always.”
His death was mourned Wednesday by journalists, media critics, politicians and admirers who took to social media to express their grief.
Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton described Boehlert's death as terrible news, saying she was "devastated for his family and friends and will miss his critical work to counteract misinformation and media bias."
Boehlert was founder and editor of PressRun.media, which produced media commentary, analysis and reporting on the political press.
He said in his biography on the Press Run website that he’d been “monitoring right-wing misinformation for years, first as a staff writer for Salon, for 10 years as a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, and most recently as a media critic at Daily Kos.”
Boehlert had previously written about the music industry for Billboard and Rolling Stone.
In a statement shared with Montclair Local, Media Matters Communications Director Laura Keiter said Boehlert’s “sharp wit and biting insight shone through in his fierce writing.”
“His passing is a real loss for truth and will leave a void in the broader media landscape,” Keiter said. “We are better for having known and worked with such a thoughtful, fearless, and passionate media critic. It was always a treat when Eric would visit the D.C. office; while he was direct and unsparing on social media, he was equally as warm, inspiring, and helpful to his colleagues.”
Boehlert’s incisive and often pointed commentary was reflected frequently in his tweets, which were sent out to his audience of more than 229,000 followers.
Boehlert was also the author of “Lapdogs: How The Press Rolled Over For Bush” and “Bloggers on the Bus: How The Internet Changed Politics and the Press.”
He served as a frequent cable news commentator, making hundreds of television appearances to discuss the media, according to his PressRun bio.
“Through his journalism, social media, books, and appearances on CNN and MSNBC, Eric was a fierce defender of democracy, social justice and truth in media,” his family said in its statement. “He was fearless and brilliant in his investigation of hypocrisies and double standards in the media, and his contribution was priceless.
Fellow Montclair resident and journalist Jonathan Alter told Montclair Local he met Boehlert while working as a media critic for Newsweek in the 1980s. Being a media critic “was almost a calling” for Beohlert, Alter said.
“Eric was a tremendously decent and thoughtful guy, who was also one of the best media critics in the United States,” Alter said. “He could be very unsparing with his criticism, but it was acute.”
Being a media critic can be difficult; people can be critical when the lens gets turned on them, Alter said. But the press must be held accountable, and Boehlert did it so well, he said.
“We need critics to hold the press accountable to the way it should be and this is a terrible loss for them,” Alter said. “He was a gentle, thoughtful and friendly person who I wish I had spent more time with.”
Another Montclair resident and journalist, David Folkenflik, told Montclair Local Wednesday he had not been close with Boehlert, but the two had been friendly.
“I remember him [as] a smart reporter who became a sharp critic, a proud liberal who pursued those beliefs and analyses against what he saw as hypocrisy, laziness and unaccountable power in the press and beyond,” Folkenflik said.
Journalist Michael Rapoport, also of Montclair, described Boehlert as "tremendously passionate and thoughtful — as kind and easygoing in person, and as devoted to his family, as he was unyielding in holding the media's feet to the fire for their failings."
"He cared deeply about the truth and accuracy and fairness," Rapoport said. "His voice will be sorely missed, and I will deeply miss a good friend."
In her tweets, O’Brien described Boehlert as an “amazing friend" as well.
He fought to rescue journalism and democracy, which need saving,” she wrote. She said he’d been “Brutal to bad media on twitter [and the] sweetest guy in real life.”
Bohelert's work "has never been as important as it is today in this era of relentless misinformation," Councilman Peter Yacobellis said in a statement sent to Montclair Local.
"My heart breaks knowing how devastating a loss this is for Eric's family and friends and the entire Township of Montclair. But also the loss this is for America and protecting the integrity of the First Amendment," Yacobellis said.
Boehlert was also a member of the Commonwealth Club in Upper Montclair. In a statement shared with Montclair Local Thursday, the Club shared their condolences.
"It is likely that few members of our 100+ years old social club had any idea of the enormous stature that Eric Boehlert held in the world of journalism and media," the statement says. "To us, he was just a down to earth great guy, a popular member for over a decade, a good bowler and someone with impeccable taste in music."
Boehlert was a "proud member" of the Condors bowling team at the Club, the statement says. And it was "a happy night at the lanes when his playlist supplied the music for the evening."
"He was also an avid sports fan, with a seemingly unlimited supply of baseball caps, and he truly loved coming to the Commonwealth Club where he will be missed tremendously," the statement says.
Monday night, NJ Transit said a bicyclist had been struck and killed by a train near Watchung Avenue station in Montclair. As of Wednesday, NJ Transit hadn’t released an identity of that bicyclist, but Breslin confirmed to the Daily News and to NorthJersey.com that her husband had been killed in that incident.
This post will continue to be updated to reflect more about Boehlert's life, and more comments from people who knew him and his work.