October 10, 2003

Matt Beer: ‘Feisty and clever’

I clicked on a link on Romenesko that said “‘Clever’ newsman Beer dies at 50” and it turned out to be a story about ex-colleague, and lost friend, Matt Beer, who dropped dead of a heart attack right after he arrived in Phnom Penh, where he was going to edit an English-language newspaper, the Cambodia Daily.

Matt was a true journalistic character blessed with a devilish sense of humor and cursed by an array of personal demons that never got the best of him.

He was the son of a bigamist who helped make a movie about his two-timing father, a gossip columnist, a lawyer, a disbarred lawyer, a dot-com pioneer with Suck, a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and, after the new media bust, a magazine writer.

That’s a lot of living for 50 years.

The Detroit Free Press quoted Ben Burns, Matt’s former editor at the Detroit News: "Matt Beer was a delightful, engaging rascal. He had an incredible ability to prick the balloons of the pompous and self-important."

The Free Press headline read: “Matt Beer: Journalist was feisty and clever.” As epitaphs go, I think Matt would have liked it.

Posted by Tim Porter at October 10, 2003 10:01 AM

I was a friend of Matt’s for nearly 20 years. I loved being with him, marveled at his intelligence and benefited from his insight. I went to his memorial service in Detroit that his family arranged. It was sad. There were at least 150 people there. I will miss him very, very much. I can’t believe he’s gone. I got an email from him the day he died. I’ll keep it always.

Posted by: Mary O'Neill on October 14, 2003 09:27 AM

My brother was indeed a fiesty and clever person, but he was also an incredibly sensitive person. I was very gratified to meet so many people at his service that told us all how much of an impact he had on them. While it was sadly a very short run for him, I take a great amount of peace in knowing that he was starting a new phase in his life and was extremely excited about taking on the new challenge of working with a new paper. Thanks to everyone who came to the service and for giving me a fuller picture of a big brother who had a big life.

Posted by: Amy Beer on October 14, 2003 07:04 PM

Matt and I dated the last four months of his too-short life. He stayed with me in Los Angeles until his flight to Cambodia just a few days before his death. I have never known anyone like Matt. He was multi-talented--he could write a clever film script and install a kitchen sink. He was the most energetic person I have known. A typical day for him was: get up early and take a spin class at the YMCA, work for a few hours, play tennis, cook dinner and visit friends or see a movie, work some more. The thing I loved about him the most was his ability to make me laugh. I
miss Matt and his smiling face. I know he's cycling and playing tennis and writing scripts wherever clever and feisty journalists go when they pass on to the other side.

Posted by: Donna Gay on November 5, 2003 12:13 PM

My Matt Beer Story:

So sorry to hear that Matt had passed away. I only knew him briefly, but he did make an impression on me.

I had just graduated law school and was waiting to take the Florida Bar and was working for some jackass attorney in Detroit that Matt was renting office space from.

Of course, Matt was never really in his office and during the month or so that I worked there, many inquires from the Michigan Bar were stacking up on his desk unopened.

At any rate one day he was in and I asked him if he was the same Matt Beer that use to write for the Detroit News and he said that he was. We then proceeded to talk about some of his columns, particularly the "Rambo night" column that stirred up such controversy.

He asked if there were any interesting things that I had work on in school and I told him about a project that I had done involving assisted suicide.

He asked if I had a copy and I did I gave him a disk with the project on it and he said he'd read it as well as post it on the internet.

He was a very nice guy, who seemed sad. I don't think he particulary liked practicing law.

Its odd that I remember him and that one encounter that we had and its odd that for some reason he popped in my head recently. So I did an internet search to see what happened to him

Posted by: John Harrington on December 3, 2003 02:32 PM

I met Matt ever so briefly at the Northern Michigan University where I had just started writing for the college student paper,the North Wind, as Matt was leaving. He had launched an investigation into the administration and particularly into John McGoff, the president of the board and area publisher who had connections with the apartheid regime in South Africa -- not the usual stuff of a weekly student newspaper. His work left quite a wake as those of us younger, much less experienced and much less brave took up the mantle of investigating and exposing this information. We got into all kinds of trouble and had many sleepless nights (or at least I did), but will be forever grateful and influenced by that experience. There's no question that Matt really opened the gates for this important work and inspired all of us. I remember him with a real sense of awe and often wondered what happened to him. I found out about his death from my dear friend who was the editor the year that I was the managing editor. She just contacted me after losing contact for the last 24 years. She mentioned Matt's passing, and I'm so sad I missed the chance to hear from him about his life. Here's to Matt and all who live with courage and humor.

Posted by: Bonnie Bazata on January 4, 2004 07:01 PM
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