James Taranto, a member of The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board, writes a fawning profile of the increasingly loonie Glenn Beck. Does this mean that we can expect the Journal to become a semi-respectable print version of another of Rupert Murdoch’s “news” outlets, Fox News Channel (which of course is home to Mr. Beck’s TV show)?
Glenn Beck didn’t always believe in what he was doing. “When I was young, I used to hear people say, ‘He’s a golden boy. Look at that guy. Can you imagine what he’s going to be like when he grows up?’ Well, I unfortunately bought into that. And I hadn’t even found myself. Quite honestly, I was running from myself. But I knew how to work Top 40 radio.”
“Golden boy” was no exaggeration. “I was in Washington, D.C., on the morning show, by the time I was 18, programming a station by 19, No. 1 in the mornings. I think I was making, I don’t know, a quarter of a million dollars by the time I was 25,” he tells me in his midtown Manhattan office, a few blocks from the Fox News Channel studio where he now broadcasts his eponymous program every afternoon.
A drinking problem helped plunge Mr. Beck into personal and professional crisis: “By the time I was 30,” he says, “nobody would work with me. I was friendless, I was hopeless, I was suicidal, lost my family—I mean, it was bad. Bottomed out, didn’t know what I was going to do. I actually thought I was going to be a chef—go to work in a kitchen someplace.”
Instead he found a calling in talk radio. It was late in the 1990s: “I did one of my first shows at WABC [in New York]. I was filling in for somebody. . . . I used to have to write everything out and keep copious notes on everything. I overprepped everything. And I got to the end of my first hour, and I looked down at all the notes, and I hadn’t touched the first piece of paper. It was all off the top of my head. It was me being me. That’s when I knew: This is what I have to do.”
Mr. Beck, 45, has many detractors, but there’s no denying that he has made a success of himself. In addition to his Fox show, he hosts “The Glenn Beck Program,” syndicated on radio, publishes a magazine and a Web site, and has written seven books. “Somebody told me that our footprint in a month”—the number of people he reaches in all media—”is about 30 million,” he says.
His politics are libertarian. “I really kind of dig this whole freedom thing,” he says. “I’d like to pass it on to the kids.” But he is pessimistic about the prospects for doing so: “I’m a dad, and I no longer see a way for my kids to even inherit the money that I’m making, let alone go out there, have an idea, and create it in their own lifetime.”…