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Showing 1-10 of 12 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
VINE VOICEon December 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Alex S. Jones is a journalist who has just about seen it all: he has owned and managed a paper, he has written features, he won a Pulitzer Prize, he has taught journalism, he has done radio journalism and he has written several books. He knows of what he writes.

Jones is concerned about the evolution of news gathering services (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines) from expensive investigative work to nonsense tabloid stuff (this week it is Tiger Woods - thanks to serious news organizations I know more than I've ever wanted to know about his wife, his doctor, etc. - but just go out and try to get some solid info about the health care debate!)

He bemoans a number of trends, including the synergy type news that ABC, NBC & CBS do to promote new books, movies or shows. He is concerned that the "iron core" of news is being ignored and is shrinking because it is hard to produce and can be costly. By iron core he means the serious analysis news (not opinion pieces) and investigative journalism that the public can trust. He is also unhappy (but not enough, in my opinion) at advocacy "gotcha" journalism that undermines the public's faith.

He includes a nice history of journalism in America and plenty of first-hand examples from his own family's experiences. His analysis of technological trends is spot-on and ties in neatly with the analysis in the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. At the end of the book he offers some interesting predictions about where news is heading.
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on April 6, 2010
In Losing the News, Alex Jones has stated what most Americans, especially those who want and appreciate serious news reporting, know or suspect about current news: TV and Internet news is often incomplete and full of "soap opera" news; much of what we're fed today is terribly biased; fewer reporters than ever are actually capable of digging deeply into issues that matter. He admits that newspapers of old were known for biased stories in various historical periods. And he states that journalistic ethics are a relatively new phenomenon. None of this means that we don't want and need to know that somewhere there are reporters whose stories we can trust to be as honest as possible.

Those of us who lived through Watergate, Iran-gate, and other political and national scandals wonder if there is still anyone out there who is capable of uncovering unethical or illegal actions. Large corporations owning several news organizations don't appear to be the best option. Do most people even want to know about such news when the most popular stories concern who cheated on whom? Are these the sort of watchdogs a democratic society needs to survive?

Also, are corporate takeovers the only influence that is changing the news? With politics and government so polarized in this country, is it only natural that news organizations would follow suit? If they do, they certainly cannot be relied on to deliver objective information.

Most of us vote for the type of news we want to hear and read by tuning in, buying, talking about those stories that are important to us. One could say that Americans are getting the news they deserve. But is there some way to produce truly useful information that can be relied on? Jones offers some suggestions, while some of us wonder if current developments in journalism are just another phase in the fourth estate. Jones's proposed solutions seem half-hearted at best, as if real solutions do not exist. Still, half of solving a problem is recognizing that there is a problem, as the saying goes.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Reading Alex Jones's book about the state of the news business today makes you feel like you're in journalism school. And that's a great thing!

While Mr. Jones's focus is on the current state of the business, and on its future, this book also serves as a handy primer to the news business as it has evolved over the last 30 or 40 years (since the Pentagon Papers and Watergate). The casual reader can hit the highlights of the business: the role of a free press in a democracy, the four types of media, the five key journalistic standards, and the front-page stories that shaped the business.

But Mr. Jones's primary focus is on what he calls "the iron core" of news, that mass of hard news that he says is at the center of a functioning democracy. He wants to know: Can democracy survive without that iron core? Because that's what the author thinks is in jeopardy today, when what passes for news is celebrity-driven, "citizen-journalist," blogger pablum. He fears the iron core will not hold.

If the iron core does not hold, Mr. Jones explores what might happen to the ideal of democracy. He ponders whether we might become a two-tiered populace, in which the elite have access to high-quality paid journalism (e.g., subscription newsletters) while the masses bottom-feed on tabloid trash.

I enjoyed Mr. Jones's musings, yet share the same sorrow over the demise of -- or at least the sea changes in -- the business of journalism. Much of the book is taken up with affectionate and warm personal memories of the author's home-town family newspaper business. I loved the stories, but also felt that they did battle with the expository nature of the book. While deep in a discussion of journalistic matters, it was jolting to be dragged out for a session of reminiscing, but once I got into the stories, I didn't want to go back to the academic discussion.

I wish Mr. Jones had the answer, that he could save the business and make it once again the proud profession of old. But his concluding thoughts don't go far enough: "Journalists must hold fast and persevere. Owners must do the right thing. And citizens and news consumers must notice and demand the news they need." I doubt that will happen... it's hard to hold fast without a paycheck, the public doesn't ask for what it doesn't want, and owners must give the public what it wants in order to survive. I think we need more answers. I hope someone has them.
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VINE VOICEon November 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Well, I saw a book by Alex Jones available for review and thought, "Alex Jones from infowars wrote a book? That should be good for a laugh" and ordered a copy. Different Alex Jones altogether.

Unlike the clownshoes autotreppanned conspriacy nut of the same name, THIS Alex Jones is a career journalist from a newspaper owning family who once won a Pulitzer prize.

Book is well written, and details the history of newspapers in this country. He discusses how news has eroded due largely to economic concerns, and talks about how internet bloggers differ from credentialed journalists.

Aside from a few comments about recent events such as the Scooter Libby trial and the Jayson Blair incident, most of the events he references are half a century old.

"Newspaper GOOD, internet BAD, you kids get offa my lawn!!!"

I do agree about the degradation of the "iron core" of journalism, and believe that much of what passes as "news" today is little more than sound bites and spin. Maybe it is because of self-censorship, lack of ethics, or the "bottom line", I do not know, but people do not trust commercial news sources today for good reason. They no longer report the news in an unbiased and complete manner. No, they report incidents in a paragraph or less, omitting important details and slanting it so you will feel a certain way about the event.

The news is dead. It's been dead a long time. Thanks to Alex Jones for reminding us of what real reporting used to be like. Unlikely we'll be seeing it again in this lifetime.
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on March 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Every democracy depends on a free and fair press (media). Without a free press, there is no way for the electorate to fully understand the actions of the government. As this book discusses, our democracy is in danger of losing that voice thanks to a media consolidation and the rise of the tabloid culture. This is an excellent read thanks to an author with a masterful command of language. He walks us through the history of journalism and where our greatest watchdog is likely headed in the future.
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on October 21, 2009
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This is a book that is a little hard work in places, but overall worth the work. Alex Jones tells the story of "news"; how it came to be and how it developed and how society has been serviced and affected by it.

Jones laments the day of honest, non-biased (hm) reporting when things were less "partisan" and a reporter could work on a story for the publics benefit and not "spin" it to meet a social or political agenda. Interestingly enough, early newspapers were very much equivalent to the politically-oriented TV and radio shows were know today.

With so much being made available online and media companies being very advertisement-drive, Jones worries about the future of news and whether accuracy and agenda will take precedent over "fact-based" reporting. Much of which has happened in recent years with the consolidation of media empires into a handful of entities, each with a shareholder and advertising base (and political agenda) to support. True "independent", "fact-based" reporting is becoming a thing of the past. With the advent of social media and web-based "reporting" by less-than-qualified individuals, Jones is concerned that facts will become less relevant than readership and will be lost in the rush to get the story out.

While he does acknowledge the power of the web and the voice it has given to many, Jones raises a very real concern: where does "fact-based" reporting fit or does it? Most media (more or less) is advertising revenue-driven and that, inherently, makes it biased: the revenue stream may require self-censorship, facts go by the wayside. Add the Internet into this mix and the question as to what is real, what is made up, what is hype or misreported and real, hard-core news, becomes difficult to find.
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VINE VOICEon October 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In the book, "Losing the News," author and journalist, Alex S. Jones, covers not only the history of traditional news and journalism but also delves into the future, if any, of journalism. His premise is that good journalism is essential to our democracy, citing the First Amendment, and then explaining what good journalism should be for future. He is a prize-winning reporter who comes from a newspaper family, and not only gives lots of factual historical information but also includes personal stories about his family and their newspapers. His book is an interesting mix of details about the world of the news of the past, present and future.

His beginning chapters explain that early traditional journalism valued high quality news, accountability for the facts, and what he calls "iron core news." He states that today only about 15% is "iron core news" with the rest being "fluff." From that he details how the press today is more about entertainment and tabloid style news where newspapers can make revenue. He also suggests that there may an ethics problem today with the web and the so-called facts that may not be verified. It's these changes in news that has Jones worried, but not defeated.

As he covers the history of news from the formation of language, the printing press, the telegraph, and finally the internet, he points out that "citizen journalism" will hopefully promote good bloggers who will be accountable and present factual, objective news. He also cites successful media, like the New York Times and CNN who are learning to adapt and connect to the people that they serve. Suggesting that perhaps there is a need to pay for good journalism, he gives some ideas to promote its continuance. Should newspapers be run as non-profit or owned by the truly wealthy where well-trained journalists can continue in the traditional role of accountable journalists, he asks. Also he asks if future news people will find the meaning of "objectvity," and verifiable news. Does he think newspapers and journalists will go away? He gives some answers in his final chapter, letting the reader draw his own conclusions. His mix of factual history and personal stories makes this book a fascinating read even if you are not a journalist. The only drawback in this book is that some historical details and personal stories are somewhat too long, but if his intention is to fully educate and provoke the reader, he succeeds.
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VINE VOICEon October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is not what I expected it to be. I thought Jones would be talking about the news and who controls what the average American sees and hears as news. But what Jones focuses on specifically is what he refers to as the 'iron core' of news, journalism itself and the fate of newspapers.

He's obviously very well informed and has many interesting anecdotal stories and insights having grown up in a newspaper owning family. He traces the impact of technology as well as the economy on news and newspapers. And while this wasn't what I thought I was getting it was still very interesting and well written.

Overall I enjoyed it especially the history regarding how we Americans have come to appreciate and enjoy 'free speech' and 'freedom of the press'.
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Take a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who is third generation in a newspaper-owning family and throw in journalism which is generally in a state of complete upheaval and you have a recipe for either a strong book with a lot of insights or a lot of nostalgic hand-wringing. In this case, though you get a pretty strong balance of both.

In what is overall a strongly reasoned and well thought through presentation, Jones touches on many themes and issues. Prevalent throughout however, is also a steady diet of self-admitted denial that Newspaper journalism as it has been in exercised in the past is over and the future at this time is uncertain.

Jones weaves a consistent metaphor from the very beginning embedding the book upon the concept that there is within all journalistic output, an iron core of factual news which informs the populace and is the bedrock of democracy. Jones sees this as the "iron core". Not surprisingly, as he analyzes the source of this "iron core" he equates it more with newspaper journalism than any other source, and it is the rapid diminishing of newspaper journalism that has him most alarmed about where the news will come in the future that provides democracy with the fundamental knowledge to maintain an informed electorate.

Upon this platform, Jones precedes to explain how he understands the first amendment to have functioned in the past and currently. There is a good deal of insight here that injects a fair measure of realism and avoids a simple statement of faith based upon an overdeveloped sense of nostalgia. Jones is realistic and points out the progression of the concept to where it rests today.

Further, Jones is realistic about the state of journalism today. In addition to the core of objective news, he recognizes that there are other elements of news which wrap around the core if you will. In particular there is advocacy news in which predetermined positions are advances based upon the editorial decisions to filter the news to fit the desired position. This is often in the form of editorial comment within a newspaper and in televised news . Entertainment exists within this context as well. Again the major premise of the book sees the growth of these elements as revenue producing enticements that are maintaining while serious news is neglected because the basic economic model that supports it has shifted significantly. He laments the diminishing of real, hard core news which was supported in the past through a model of advertising support. With the advent of the internet and newspaper advertising and circulation diminishing, and especially exacerbated by the recent downturn in the economy is leading to the consolidation of outright closing of newspapers. Where, Jones laments, will the iron core of news come from? Further, generational changes are coming and this newer generation is not wired to receive and examine news in the same way. Real substance; real digging, seems destined to become a rare commodity which may stay in the domain of those educated and rich enough to realize its value and pay for it, while the general populace lags behind and democracy suffers.

After a meandering course through these issues, and Jones memories he provides his insights as to how things may play out and that things, while serious and unknown at this time as to how they will finally resolve, are not so very different than pivotal changes in the past. The model may change, but the news must continue to play its pivotal role in democracy itself.

While the resolution is not in itself so satisfactory and despite Jones' disclaimers that he's not simply indulging in remorse over the "good old days" the value in this book is not so much in the destination as in the journey. The book is a good primer for those interested in the journalism industry and where it's been.

I enjoyed it and can recommend it.

4 stars.

Bart Breen
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on September 28, 2009
Jones traces the development of journalism from revolutionary times to present and makes the argument that a healthy media is fundamental to a well informed public and therefore a viable democracy. He is well qualified as he has been a life-long newspaper man. He grew up in a newspaper family and has pursued a career in newspapers as a reporter. He does make one departure from reality when he presents the New York Times, his current employer, and the Washington Post as the pinnacle of journalistic objectivity. He ignores the fact that both publications have for years shown the most blatant left bias as displayed by their coverage of Barack Obama as close to a deity and their refusal, neglect or malfeasance to cover issues like ACORN.
Jones covers the current state of media as driven by the Internet in vivid detail to include the shrinking of print advertising revenues, necessary budget restraint and warns of the probable loss of expensive quality investigative reporting. He predicts non-professional reporting to lower the standard for information provided to the public. Jones is optimistic about the future of print media, but is skeptical about quality and future media supporting a strong democracy.
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