From School Library Journal
Early in his memoir, Phelps explains that he wants to show how his religious or moral concerns have informed his journalism. In that respect, his book falls flat: Phelps's recounting of his spiritual journey seems tacked onto what is at heart the story of his life at the New York Times
, a narrative that illuminates the pressures that can drive a news story. Phelps, who served as the Times
's Washington news editor from 1965 to 1974, has much to say about journalistic ethics and the relationship between editors and reporters. With grace and charm, he navigates the minefield of infighting between the New York and Washington bureaus, and he describes some of the paper's most influential personalities. Of special interest is his treatment of the Watergate scandal, an event that fundamentally altered the role of journalism in America. For Phelps, highly placed in a bureau widely viewed as having been beaten on the story, it's a charged subject. His take on that watershed moment in his craft will be illuminating to readers with an interest in journalism, professionally or otherwise. —Fred Baerkircher, Twinsburg P.L., OH
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Phelps, for nearly 20 years an editor at the New York Times, was behind the scenes for some of the most compelling times of American journalism: the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. His devotion was so great that he came to see it as a personal religion. He recalls life in small towns, working for United Press news service, and struggles with conscientious-objector status before becoming a navy war correspondent and moving to the Times. Because of his quiet personality and lack of skills at office politics, he was repeatedly passed over for promotions but found great pride in editing, encouraging reporters, and dealing with the complex personalities of editors and reporters. He recalls a possible mistake that may have cost the Times an important lead on the Watergate story and describes the battles between the New York and Washington bureaus. Phelps moved on to the Boston Globe and continued his devotion to journalism and neglect of a devoted wife. When she died of cancer, after 56 years of marriage, Phelps switched focus to a lifelong yearning he’d had for spiritual meaning. --Vanessa Bush