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The First Book of the Week is “Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) from an Ink-Stained Life” by Margaret Sullivan, published in 2022.
The author survived a decades-long career as a journalist and editor. Ironically, her writing was slightly less than perfect. The word “being” was used awkwardly in the middle of sentences throughout the book. Also, she spent a bunch of pages describing the problems with “anonymous sources” but her (presumably nonfiction) book lacked a detailed list of Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index (!) She did say some of her information was taken from articles she wrote for her employers. This, from a seasoned journalist.
Born in 1957, Sullivan grew up in Lackawanna, a suburb of Buffalo, in northwestern New York State. By her early thirties, she was supervising six journalists in the politics and government division of the Buffalo Evening News newspaper. In autumn 2012, as an ombudsman, she began penning articles critiquing her employer, the New York Times. Her position was that of watchdog– she helped with quality control of its product.
The author described her take on how journalism has changed over the decades with respect to truth, trust and objectivity. As is well known, technology now allows the world to communicate at the speed of light. Especially during political campaigns, many journalists have begun to behave the same way as political workers: workaholics who act like extremely self-absorbed, socially manipulative teenagers who think they’re starring in their own reality show; and they are– it’s called social media.
They feel obligated to interact with their readers by inviting their comments and responding to them; the author included. Inevitably, haters express their opinions offensively and meanly. Everyone wastes untold amounts of time dealing with them, instead of changing the world for the better.
AND, people in the media and political realms aren’t as influential as they’d like to believe they are. Ordinary Americans who don’t work in the media or politics, cannot possibly affix their eyes to all of the infinite writings, photos and videos “out there” in entertainment land 24/7. Some have to work, and others are actually engaged in other activities.
Anyway, in 2017, as a columnist for the Washington Post, the author considered herself an “independent-minded journalist” but came to the rude awakening that, when she asked people from all-walks-of-life about politics, she could no longer find common ground with them on basic issues.
Although the author discussed the legal issues of “anonymous sources” and “equal time” she didn’t cite any legal cases. She did write that in three different instances, media outlets courageously chose to give more time to the truth than to falsity in their 2020 election coverage– by not giving equal time to people who were screaming voter fraud and that Trump had won the election. She hopes there will be more media space devoted to the truth in the future. Good luck with that, all.
Read the book to learn a boatload more about the author’s career trials, tribulations and triumphs, and her recommendations for helping to reverse the current awful trends in journalism so as to save modern civilization.
The Second Book of the Week is “An Atheist in the FOXhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media” by Joe Muto, published in 2013.
The author was born in early 1982 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His first job out of college was at Fox News. He detailed the working conditions there from summer 2004 into spring 2012. In October 2004, a story broke about a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O’Reilly. The main source of evidence consisted of O’Reilly’s voice on audio recordings.
Thereafter, Fox News gave its employees sensitivity training in order to stave off more lawsuits. The two lawyers teaching the classes said that the Fox bosses could legally tell on-air talent what to wear– even mini-skirts and strappy, cleavage-revealing blouses(!)– because they had a right to creatively control their “product.”
As time went on, the author’s employer’s product became more and more inflammatory, cringeworthy, and offensive. As is well known, Fox has toned down its rhetoric due to lawsuits. The number of parties who have the clout and money to sue have finally reached critical mass on the sexual harassment and defamation fronts.
In connection therewith, in the last decade, several obnoxious public figures have disappeared from the American-influence scene. This has help foster a kinder social environment. Nevertheless, hate-spewers and laws favoring them wax and wane in history.
Too, in the last few decades, the entertainment industry has seen a trend of lazy (or untalented) creators, evinced by a boatload of unnecessarily juvenile, expletive-laden, disgusting content. Controversy over free speech has also been ignited by people on each extreme: those who feel they should have the right to say anything they want, and those who take offense at everything that is said, with accusations of discrimination or inappropriateness.
Anyway, read the book to learn about the author’s employment experiences and his fate at the time of the book’s writing.