- Series: Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lecture on American Civilization and Government
- Hardcover: 186 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 674th ed. edition (November 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674616227
- ISBN-13: 978-0674616226
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,286,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What the People Know : Freedom and the Press 674th ed. Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Like many academics, University of Southern California professor Reeves feels that a lot of journalism has been "blood, fire, sports, sex, mixed with stories to make you feel good about yourself and bad about your government." But as an experienced reporter for the New York Times and the creator of award-winning television documentaries, he still believes that journalists are crucial, irreplaceable contributors to a democratic society. His 12th book reconciles his skepticism and faith with vivid arguments of seasoned optimism. Reeves lauds both "Old Fartism" (journalistic integrity, hard work and the four Ws) and technological change (experimentation, speed and adaptation). Answering charges that journalists are becoming outdated, Reeves stresses their resilience and dedication, cites CNN's successes and even claims that "newspapers are better than they were pre-television." While people may "get the news" in revolutionary new ways, Reeves cares most about how news "is gathered and prepared for transmission." Reeves does fear journalists' profit motives, their incessant criticism of government and their ignorance of business. Why? Because "corporations own newspapers and television stations, government does not; corporations sue newspapers and television stations, government does not." Based on his 1997 Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lecture at the Library of Congress, this book's anecdotal approach may not satisfy historians, but Reeves's seasoned, passionately optimistic treatise should inform and inspire both media consumers and journalists alike. (Nov.) FYI: Another forthcoming book on the changing face of journalism, Live from the Trenches: The Changing Role of the Network News Correspondent, collects essays from 10 distinguished correspondents, covering everything from the changing nature of communications technology to the diminishing world of foreign news coverage. Foreword by Ted Koppel. (Southern Illinois Univ., $22.95 159p ISBN 0-8093-2232-3; Nov.)
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Journalist Reeves (President Kennedy: Profile of Power, LJ 9/15/93) has been chief political correspondent for the New York Times and an editor and columnist for New York magazine and Esquire. Although he once wrote critically of President Gerald Ford in A Ford, Not a Lincoln (LJ 12/15/75), years later he published a magazine article, "I Apologize, Mr. President," admitting that he had sold Ford short. We might listen, then, when he takes the high moral ground journalistically, arguing that after its spectacular successes reporting segregation, Vietnam, and Watergate, the press has become less of a watchdog and more willing to bare its fangs at politicians (who have become easy targets) while letting up on corporate conglomerates (who increasingly own newspapers and broadcasting companies and are more likely to bite back with lawsuits). Meanwhile, the press gives us the soft stories that we apparently want. In this short, gracefully argued book, Reeves offers convincing reasons for this decline and a plea for journalism to return to its roots. Strongly recommended for larger public and academic libraries.AJim G. Burns, Ottumwa,
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Doubts began to arise in the 1960's, with a variety of revelations. Hugh Hefner said "sex is fun" and people discovered he was right. Various president's ordered hundreds of thousands of Americans to risk their lives in Vietnam, but didn't offer a similar national commitment. Auto executives churned out cars that exploded in rear-end collisions, refusing to spend a couple of dollars per car to correct the problem. After a president resigned -- not before -- Barry Goldwater called him "the most dishonest man I ever met."
Reeves seems surprised that such questioning includes the news media. His book is a wonderful collection of the doubts afflicting the media, and the very valid reasons for such distrust. Any reporter with a couple of years experience can recount horror stories of unethical editors and publishers who believe and act as if they are the most powerful people in the community. Remember the old adage, "If you talk to God, you're praying; if God talks to you, you're nuts." Some editors believe, "If you endorse our editorials, you're a good citizen; if you question our wisdom, you're nuts."
Think of Reeves as the `Martin Luther' of journalism; his book tacks his theses to the door of today's most arrogant institution. In response, the "Reformation" is here -- it's called the Internet.
Fifty years ago, in the "golden age" of journalism, some people bought a newspaper for a single reason -- for sports, stock tables, weather, comics, advice columns, crossword puzzles or other single purposes. The rest was thrown away. Now, the Internet provides such information directly and with less hassle. Newspapers will never recapture such shallow readers.
Only the media analyzes itself in full public view. The Catholic Church doesn't publicize the sexual liaisons of priests with young boys -- and, in some cases, young women. Critics of priestly failings are all noise and hate with no insight, wisdom or mercy; despite that, no priest would dare issue a book admitting, "We've got problems, and here's a solution." But, the news media is its own toughest critic -- as Reeves shows. The Janet Cooks and Duke Tullys are national embarrassments featured by the media to deter others from making similar mistakes.
Reeves criticizes the media with insight, mercy and rational analysis; he avoids egregious examples and partisan twaddle. Read the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times every day for a few weeks, and you'll understand how "truth" is so variable. Both offer vigorous, intelligent and often opposite editorial opinions by highly intelligent writers; it's what happens in a free society. Only tyrannies celebrate consensus, conformity and conservatism. The fault is not with opinions, it is with mealy-mouth publishers who think circulation depends on being so bland that the paper is "everyone's friend."
The grimmest fault of the media is the oldest story in the world, "No guts, no glory." When you have gutless publishers, reporters become equally gutless -- and the public deserts to "bold new media" such as the Internet. Sadly, Reeves failed to suggest a solution. Quite simply, take a theme from his favorite movie, The Front Page (1931 version), and get editors back to the three-martini breakfast and a gin bottle in the bottom desk drawer -- you can buy courage by the quart, if that's what it takes to give them guts.
Respect isn't earned by licking every boot in the community, it comes from a basic principle of old fashioned journalism, "Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." Sure, it takes guts. Maybe it's why Reeves, brilliant at outlining problems, fails to offer solutions. After all, someone may challenge him with a better idea. Remember, he's one of the professors who train modern journalists.
That is his only weakness. His book is a wonderful analysis of problems facing conscientious journalists, probably the best in the recent spate of criticism. First, read it; then, disagree with my analysis. See? You're already on the road to a solution.