- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Edition Unstated edition (February 4, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375714154
- ISBN-13: 978-0375714153
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril Edition Unstated Edition
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There's good news and bad news. That's the inside scoop on the state of journalism from Washington Post editors Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser, whose book The News About the News sheds light on the changes wrought on the profession during the late 20th century. Using the clear, sharp prose emblematic of their craft, the authors examine the effects of changing business standards, the merger of news and entertainment, and--of course--the Internet explosion on how reporting is produced and consumed. Their verdict is that thoroughly researched, unbiased stories on vital topics not only provide a public service but also will sell papers and commercials. This is, of course, a welcome call to arms for reporters, editors, readers, and viewers to demand higher-quality work from news providers. It's hard to find flaws in their arguments; though they are mildly print-chauvinistic, they recognize the problems of their own medium just as much as radio, TV, and the Web. Readers of The News About the News will find themselves better able to evaluate journalism and, perhaps, to help create a demand for good news. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
For much of the 1980s and '90s, the news media were in a slump. Largely nonconsequential stories on celebrity weddings and car crashes made headlines. But on September 11, according to veteran Washington Post staffers Downie and Kaiser (executive and associate editor, respectively), things abruptly changed. "Hard news was back in the forefront," they say, and in this powerful and timely assessment of the present state of the news, the two present compelling evidence of the shaky ground newspapers and television news stand on today. By describing the profound impact the news can have (e.g., the Salt Lake Tribune's uncovering of the corruption in the bidding process for this winter's Olympic games), Downie and Kaiser prove that even in our celebrity-driven age, news does matter. They mainly focus on newspapers and television news in this succinct, unpreachy treatise, briefly skimming over the Internet and the rise of MSNBC.com and Salon.com, among other Web sites. Not surprisingly, the authors are biased toward newspapers for their unsensational, in-depth coverage of current affairs; they even suggest exercises for readers to compare television with print news. But they're not above admitting print's problems, either, namely, the increasing importance of enhancing shareholder value and the emphasis on the bottom line. Downie and Kaiser give a fairly brief yet meaningful history of newspapers and television news, juxtaposing the history with interviews with today's leading journalists, from NBC icon Tom Brokaw to former New York Times national editor Dean Baquet. This is an important, up-to-date study that should be required reading for journalism students and serious consumers of the news. Agent, Amanda Urban.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who monitors the news and to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the business of journalism. It gives a completely different (if slightly biased) perspective of journalism from the inside out. It's a relatively quick read, but one that you might want to go back over a few times to make sure you can truly understand the point that Downie and Kaiser are trying to get at.
The authors tell us why this has occurred. Essentially, many newspapers, t.v. stations, and radio stations have been taken over by huge corporations like Gannett or AOL-Time Warner. These corporations are fixed upon obtaining a certain bottomline profit margin from each station year by year. To this end, they have limited space for hard news stories, laid off thousands of reporters, increased entertainment type features, and do little investigative reporting (which is expensive). They have also raised advertising rates and in some situations, involved themselves with inappropriate relationships with businesses who advertise in their mediums.
The authors point out through a number of examples, exactly why good journalism is important to a community. Solid news coverage on a state/national/international level has helped inform the American people of complex realities, enabling them to make sound decisions in the Representative Democracy in which we live. It has helped cracked scandals like Watergate wide open. It has helped states realize and rectify problems in their educational and social systems. It has explained much of the current problems with Muslims and Osama Bin Laden, so that we can understand what occurred on September 11, 2001 better.
The authors are wrong about some things. I noted that both Downie and Kaiser started in journalism in the sixties, before the advent of the computer age. Perhaps, this is what makes them hostile to presentation of news stories with fancy computer graphics, maps, and other audio/visual effects. I don't see this as a problem. I think an authoritative news cast could make use of both good reporting and the technologies of the information age that allow us to make better presentations and allow for more effective communication with an audience.
While I largely agree with the authors, I also note this problem. The term "news" and "newsworthy" is a very subjective term. Any two people may experience serious disagreement about what is a legitimate "news story" and what is not. For example, a president having sex with his intern may or not may not be a news story. Perhaps, the line is when you can show that his doing so is somehow interfering with his official duties. By arguing that the media needs to do a better job reporting news, and complaining about particular types of reporting,the authors in essence conclude that some matters are not "newsworthy". The authors opinion on this maybe no better or worse than our own.
What I found most discouraging about the book is that the solutions are going to be very difficult. Things have reached the point they have because of demands for profitability by huge multi-national corporations. Its a very involved process and will be difficult to rectify.
In the end, the authors simply make the point that if the American public wants good journalism it has the power to demand it, by refusing to watch or read poor journalism. That action will send the greatest message of all to those who are in charge.