Talk has never been cheaper in political journalism. On radio and TV, cable and network, there are now dozens of political talk shows. They range from the calm and ego-less Brian Lamb conducting a C-Span roundtable to the vein-popping G. Gordon Liddy telling his listeners exactly where to shoot federal agents. For this book, Howard Kurtz, a Washington Post
media reporter and sometime talk show guest himself, interviewed nearly everyone associated with the genre. Frequently, the interviewees put their finger on what's wrong. "It's gotten to be a game," Sam Donaldson says of the guests on ABC's This Week.
"They come on with one thing in mind--to put forward their view on a particular topic or two, but make certain they don't give us anything else. . . . They'll lie as part of their game plan. I can't immediately disprove what they're saying. . . . We're just an extension of the PR mechanism." According to Michael Kinsley of Slate
(and former Crossfire
cohost), what television wants is "jovial disagreement. We're all pals here, just joshing around in the locker room, when I think they're (expletive) liars."
From Publishers Weekly
Kurtz (Media Circus) takes a no-holds-barred look at America's electronic media from radio and TV talk shows to the Sunday morning punditocracy, which he calls a testosterone-driven calling. He skewers John McLaughlin and his McLaughlin Group for inaccuracy (they seldom predict an election right) and lack of preparation, even getting panelist Jack Germond to admit, "I am not comfortable with any of this, but I do it for the money." Kurtz then moves on to Phil Donahue, the granddaddy of daytime talk-show hosts. Covering such topics as dwarf-tossing and cross-dressing, Donahue pioneered the way for his successors from Geraldo Rivera, who had on-air liposuction performed on his own butt, to Jenny Jones, whose on-air ambush of a guest led to real-life homicide. He examines the lives of the pristine pontificators on the Sunday morning political shows, casting aspersions on their journalistic integrity (George Will once coached Ronald Reagan for a debate with Jimmy Carter, then later declared Reagan the winner on ABC) and noting their obvious conflicts of interest (journalists often give paid speeches to organizations they are reporting on). He also takes a close look at the not-so-orderly personal lives of such radio icons as Larry King and Rush Limbaugh. Kurtz has written a scathing profile of the national media and pseudo-media that will have intelligent Americans wondering why they just don't flick the dial to "Off." Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.