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Feet to the Fire: The Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak Out Hardcover – October 1, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Borjesson, an award-winning investigative reporter turned media critic, gathers an impressive list of journalists in what purports to be "an oral account of the current era of crisis," but the author is less interested in her group's answers than whether they agree with her premises: the Bush administration is evil, the American media are largely complicit, and the American public is idiotic. Throughout, Borjesson focuses on botched coverage leading up to the war in Iraq. Her "questions," some amounting to an entire paragraph, others more statement than inquiry, rankle some subjects and motivate others. Ted Koppel bristles at Borjesson's sweeping judgments, while New York Times writer-economist Paul Krugman follows the author's lead almost to the edge of reason. Other times, Borjesson doesn't even listen to her subjects' answers; upon hearing Washington Post special projects reporter Barton Gellman give a thoughtful argument for reconstruction stories ("journalism after the fact") as a valuable way to explain how things happened, including the Bush administration's successful campaign for war, Borjesson smugly rejects the notion: "But you understand how presenting this evidence after the war instead of while the case for war is being made is totally moot." Flawed, yes. Totally moot, no. And Gellman, for anyone who cares to pay attention, impressively explains the difference. In fact, this book is full of such insightful commentary. Just skip the questions.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

American media has garnered severe criticism, particularly abroad, for failing to more vigorously question the Bush administration's insistence on going to war against Iraq. In this collection of interviews with 21 journalists, Borjesson offers a penetrating look at how top reporters regard the efforts by themselves and their colleagues to cover the war and the efforts of the administration to conceal or obfuscate their policy on Iraq. Ted Koppel, anchor of Nightline, known for asking tough questions, asserts that he has never been censored, while White House correspondent Helen Thomas laments the pressure on reporters not to appear unpatriotic by questioning the motives for the war and how she has become persona non grata with the administration. Among others interviewed are author Ron Suskind, Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid, historian-blogger Juan Cole, former New York Times correspondent Christopher Hedges, NPR's Deborah Amos, and Knight Ridder correspondent Hannah Allam. Editor of the highly acclaimedInto the Buzzsaw (2002), Borjesson once again shines a penetrating light on the failures and virtues of American journalists at this crucial time. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 575 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (October 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591023432
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591023432
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,469,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Watson on November 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whatever your political views, if you ever wonder why what is reported in the news media doesn't seem to track with reality, this is an interesting book on the subject. As one reviewer noted, the questions are pretty leading (even obnoxious) at times, and the editor's biases are unquestionable. However, in fairness some of the "answers" dodge fairly straightforward and important questions. The insights as to how journalists cover major events are worth these minor complaints. How information is gathered and presented is a vital element of our society, and this book is an important contribution to understanding what is flawed in that process.
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Format: Hardcover
Quite frankly, I don' think I've ever read a books as important as Feet to the Fire. At least not while trying to make sense of the contemporary conflict between the West (i.e. North America) and the Middle East with its numerous Muslim countries and inhabitants.

In this thorough 627 pages long book, Kristina Borjesson interviews the key players in the North American journalism and media scene. And she does so using straight-forward and honest questions. Except the current war against Iraq, which dominates the greater part of the book, other things such as the Bush administration, news reporting in the aftermath of 9/11, censorship in the media, and much, MUCH more. She's never afraid to ask both controversial and troubling questions, in other words those very questions that many people have been thinking about but never given an answer to. And luckily for us, the interviewees are willing to answer.

Of the book's more than 600 pages, most contains paragraph after paragraph of useful information. It goes without saying that a complete summary of a book with a scale as massive as this one can never be accomplished in a short book review, but one thing is certain: in case you do manage to read the entire thing you'll get a new and sometimes very troubling look at the state of world politics and warfare. Forget the impersonal images you've seen in the news and never mind the stale reporting coming out of most newspapers: here you'll hear from the people who've actually been there, who've been in the heat of gruesome battle; the people who'll tell you just how tragic this reality really is.

I could spend the rest of the night talking about all the big names and all the important stories found in the book, but then this review would probably never come to an end.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These interviews with top journalists about the conditions they work(ed) under in Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq are enlightening. It becomes clear that corporate concerns do bias the news we are allowed to see. That is why a variety of viewpoints is essential. A good introduction to the practice of journalism when the country is at war.
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Format: Hardcover
I must say, I had higher expectations when I read this book. Nevertheless, we can't blame editor Kristina Borjesson. The book consists of a number of chapters divided by individual interviews of 21 "most distinguished" journalists. The questions, centered around the media drumbeat for the Iraq War, are all asked by KB, and while they are fairly tough enough, the responses are, quite frankly, lame. These journalists have no iota of a notion of holding themselves accountable for one of the biggest atrocities that mankind is capable of committing-War! KB probes and probes, but most of these shills just don't get it. I was particularly disgusted at the raw naivety of Ted Koppel. This guy is NOT looking out for America. He's looking out for his paycheck. There were a few journalists who gave some good genuine answers like James Bamford and the Harper's reporter, John MacArthur. But more importantly, there is a lesson here, and that lesson is that YOU, American citizen, have to use your OWN critical thinking and ask the tough questions because the mainstream media has profits to make and they don't maximize those pathological profits in an era of peacetime status quo...Now, take a look back in history and notice the same irresponsible journalism surrounding WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc...infinity...hundreds of thousands of American soldier deaths (and civilian)...for nothing...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating look at the state of the corporate media in the mid-2000s. An interview with the much-respected Ted Koppel from 2004 really reveals what a part of the problem he is. Practically every statement is a milder version of what the Bush administration was saying around that time. He was convinced there were WMD in Iraq - "absolutely, I believed it." He felt that Bush wanted the media to be in Iraq so they could show them the WMD when they found them; and if only Saddam had cooperated with UN inspectors, Bush would have lost his excuse to invade: "And if after all Saddam wanted to avoid an invasion, the easiest way of doing that would be to say, 'Yes, we have a few tons of weapons of mass destruction. Here, take them out. Look anywhere you want to look.'...I don't think that the United States could have gone ahead with it [the war] then. I really don't....Would have been very, very difficult. But as I say, the problem that I see is those who say, 'We should have given it another six months so that the inspectors could do their work.' At the end of six months, the administration would have said, 'We haven't proved anything yet, all we've proved is that they're well hidden.'"

Which is exactly what happened, of course. He seems to have forgotten, as Bush later did, that the UN weapons inspectors were in Iraq for months before Bush kicked them out. Koppel also repeats the Bush claim that every other intelligence agency in the world thought Saddam had WMD.

Reading the interviews with Ron Suskind, Tom Yellin and Thomas Curley, I'm struck by how many people in the corporate media identify with the US power structure.
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