Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media

Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media

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by John Stossel

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Working as a correspondent for 20/20 and Good Morning America, John Stossel confronted dozens of scam artists: from hacks who worked out of their basements to some of America's most powerful executives and leading politicians. His efforts shut down countless crooks — both famous and obscure. Then he realized what the real problem was.



Working as a correspondent for 20/20 and Good Morning America, John Stossel confronted dozens of scam artists: from hacks who worked out of their basements to some of America's most powerful executives and leading politicians. His efforts shut down countless crooks — both famous and obscure. Then he realized what the real problem was.

In Give Me a Break, Stossel takes on the regulators, lawyers, and politicians who thrive on our hysteria about risk and deceive the public in the name of safety. Drawing on his vast professional experience (as well as some personal ones), Stossel presents an engaging, witty, and thought-provoking argument about the beneficial powers of the free market and free speech.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stossel doesn't offer much detail about how he became "the first of the in-your-face TV consumer reporters," rushing through his career's start and then shifting to anecdotes from his experiences to illustrate how he reached the ideological conclusions that have given him a reputation as a rogue, a tag he both embraces and tries to shake here. Free markets are great, the 20/20 correspondent repeatedly tells readers, while government regulation stifles innovation and keeps consumers from gaining access to the best, safest products possible. Stossel calls out the federal government in particular, citing its "incompetence" and comparing the FDA to a "malignant tumor" (he also claims September 11 happened because "the FAA never asked for tighter security"). While Stossel describes himself as a libertarian, his comments on the liberal media establishment are reminiscent of those of outspoken conservative Bernard Goldberg. Many readers who nod in agreement when Stossel complains about the "totalitarian left," however, may find it harder to share his enthusiasm for extending personal liberty to include assisted suicide, legalized prostitution and dwarf-tossing. Stossel may be effective in small doses on 20/20, but his rhetorical strength diminishes when the print format requires him to go on at length. 16-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW. (Feb. 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This is an account by 20/20 coanchor Stossel of his migration from consumer advocate to cash-generating libertarian who campaigns against government regulation (including disability laws) in favor of freedom of the marketplace. His political shift is noticeable in both his programs and his writing, and his credibility and tactics are called into question by his detractors-particularly those on the Left. Yet Stossel points out things we forget, such as the relatively low risk posed by much of what alarms us, e.g., dying of dioxin poisoning. He convincingly posits that the federal government is too slow to respond to serious problems and suggests that corporations would do a better job of managing some tasks than the government does. Stossel's audience acceptance ratings continue to soar, and the network allows him considerable freedom because he generates income. His breezy, sarcastic television style is maintained in his writing. Recommended for public libraries and academic journalism or communication collections where there is interest.-Necia Parker-Gibson, Univ. of Arkansas Libs., Fayetteville Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Give Me a Break
How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media...

Chapter One

What Happened to Stossel?

Journalism without a moral position is impossible.
-- Marguerite Duras

I was once a heroic consumer reporter; now I'm a threat to journalism.

As a consumer reporter, I exposed con men and thieves, confronting them with hidden camera footage that unmasked their lies, put some out of business, and helped send the worst of them to jail. The Dallas Morning News called me the "bravest and best of television's consumer reporters." Marvin Kitman of Newsday said I was "the man who makes 'em squirm," whose "investigations of the unjust and wicked ... are models." Jonathan Mandell of the New York Daily News quoted a WCBS official who "proudly" said, "No one's offended more people than John Stossel."

Ah, "proudly." Those were the days. My colleagues liked it when I offended people. They called my reporting "hard-hitting," "a public service." I won 18 Emmys, and lots of other journalism awards. One year I got so many Emmys, another winner thanked me in his acceptance speech "for not having an entry in this category."

Then I did a terrible thing. Instead of just applying my skepticism to business, I applied it to government and "public interest" groups. This apparently violated a religious tenet of journalism. Suddenly I was no longer "objective."

Ralph Nader said I "used to be on the cutting edge," but had become "lazy and dishonest." According to Brill's Content, "Nader was a fan during Stossel's consumer advocate days," but "now talks about him as if he'd been afflicted with a mysterious disease."

These days, I rarely get awards from my peers. Some of my ABC colleagues look away when they see me in the halls. Web sites call my reporting "hurtful, biased, absurd." "What happened to Stossel?" they ask. CNN invited me to be a guest on a journalism show; when I arrived at the studio, I discovered they'd titled it "Objectivity and Journalism -- Does John Stossel Practice Either?" People now e-mail me, calling me "a corporate whore" and a "sellout."

How did I get from there to here? This book is the story of my professional and intellectual journey.

The Making of a Contrarian

I never planned to be a reporter. In college, when I tried to write a story for the school newspaper, the editors sneered and said, "Leave the writing to us." I was never much of a public speaker. I'm kind of shy, and I stutter. It all happened because I wanted to postpone graduate school.

I'd been accepted by the University of Chicago's School of Hospital Management, but I was sick of school. I was an indifferent student. I daydreamed through half my classes at Princeton, and applied to grad school only because I was ambitious, and grad school seemed like the right path for a 21-year-old who wanted to get ahead. Hospital management sounded like a useful and interesting career. But before I headed for the University of Chicago, I took a job. I thought the stress of a real job would make me appreciate school, and then I would embrace graduate studies with renewed vigor.

Every time a company sent a recruiter to Princeton, I volunteered for an interview. I got a dozen job offers and took the one that offered me a free flight that would take me the farthest: Seattle Magazine. They said they'd teach me how to sell advertising or do bookkeeping. But by the time I graduated, Seattle Magazine had gone out of business. I was lucky, though: Ancil Payne, the boss of the parent company, King Broadcasting, called me to say, "We have a job available at KGW, our Portland, Oregon, TV station. Want to try that?"

I said yes, although I had never thought about a career in TV news. I'd never even watched much of it. I had no journalism training.

In Portland I started as a newsroom gofer and worked my way up. I researched stories for others. Then, after studying how the anchormen spoke, I started writing stories for them. A few years later the news director told me to go on the air and read what I wrote. I reluctantly tried, but I was horrible at it -- nervous, awkward, scared. When I watched a tape of my performance, I was embarrassed.

But I persisted because I had to succeed. When I was growing up, my mother had repeatedly warned me that if I didn't study hard, get into a good college, and succeed in a profession, I would "freeze in the dark." I believed it.

I was also determined to keep pace with my brother Tom, who was the superstar of the family. While I partied and played poker, he studied hard, got top grades, and went to Harvard Medical School. Since I knew there was no way I could compete with Tom in his field, I tried to become a success in the profession I'd stumbled into.

In retrospect, I see that it probably helped me that I had taken no journalism courses. Television news was still inventing itself then, and I was open to new ideas. I learned through fear. My fear of failure made me desperate to do the job well, to try to figure out what people really needed to know and how I could say it in a way that would work well on TV. I stayed late at night to experiment with different ways of editing film. I watched NBC's David Brinkley and Jack Perkins and shamelessly copied them.

But I couldn't talk as well as they could. Since childhood, my stuttering had come and gone. Sometimes I was sure the problem had disappeared forever. Then it would return with such a vengeance, I'd fear saying anything at all. I'd sit silent in class, and miss out on dates because I was afraid to talk to girls ...

Give Me a Break
How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media...
. Copyright © by John Stossel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC's 20/20. He also hosts ABC's John Stossel Specials reports for ABC radio, and A graduate of Princeton University, Stossel lives in New York City with his wife and two children. He devotes his time to beach volleyball, youth soccer, and his family.

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Give Me a Break 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm curious what 'verifiable facts' Stossel is ignoring. Regardless of your view point, the book certainly raises some interesting issues. Should Donald Trump be able to evict a widowed lady so he can expand his casino? Should rich folks get their beach front properties subsidized by government? Why is it that even raising such questions could be so controversial? This is a must read, and it's easy, quick and entertaining to get through as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unlike the other bestsellers, this one is based on truths and real experience. His conclusions may be not potlitically correct and eye opening at times. But the author never fails to tell you how he reached them. He doesn't use bumper slogans and spin to make you think the way he wants you to. I am getting tired of those books that try to persuade me with conjecture and half truths. A must read for all, Thanks John.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
John is right. It is too bad the politicians in Washington have not learned how to read. If they read this book, maybe, just maybe, they would realize how stupid they have been over the past fifty years. They have mad a mess out our country and John exposes them. Great job John!
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haleybeck More than 1 year ago
John Stossel is an advocate who will open your eyes to government fraud waste and abuse. This book is a must read.
NickFL More than 1 year ago
I loved how Stossel presented problems and solutions in this book. He has lots of really good points and will challenge both the left and right leaning readers. If you have any kind of an open mind read this book.
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SushiGirlAli More than 1 year ago
"Give Me a Break" is fantastic! Mr. Stossel is a quality reporter who exercises integrity, consistency, and common sense to respond to difficult social and economic issues. All of these qualities are reflected in this book. I appreciated the honest tone and supporting evidence to each section and the connection to Mr. Stossel's past ABC specials. By visiting YouTube, you can watch his specials as they relate to the content of the book, which provides a fantastic visual guide. I highly recommend this book to lovers of economic liberty and personal freedom!!!
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Mr.Krinkle More than 1 year ago
As a long time viewer of Mr. Stossel"s, I wanted to read his book. I like his expose style. However he is does not fully inform readers, e.g. the hot coffee at McDonalds case. Looking into the case reveals that McDonald's refused to go to court forced mediation, have settled 700 times for the same hot coffee, reexamine their standards for their coffee (served at 195-205 degrees F.) or inspect the machine in question. I disagree that the economy and market take care of themselves at all times. And that government agencies are unnecessary. They are usually ineffective, but there was a time that labor was exploited (e.g. wages, child labor, long hours, harassment...). A time when "chicken soup" didn't have to be chicken. It could be rat, dog, cat or anything! There was no regulation or enforcement. I like his views on government staying out of peoples lives. Jabs at Ralph Nader are enlightening. Unique in his journalism, Stossel tackles the ridiculous yet legitimacy our country has to offer - the Americans with Disabilities Act, asbestos scares, the war on drugs, assisted suicide and many more. It seems Bill O' Reilly endorses this book. I never thought I would read such a book. Worth checking out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book highly first when I started hearing his various confrontations, I was intrigued, but as the book went on, nothing changed, and it got old quick. John Stossel just attempted to further his career by making himself look to dang good in this book. He left alot of things unanswered, and had some very biased opinions. I dont see how anyone but John Stossel could enjoy reading this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was an amazing book and John Stossel told the media how the cow ate the cabbage and his politcal philosphy is mine
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone should read this book. I don't completely agree with Stossel on social issues, but I'm with him %100 when it comes to economics, and while some his arguments should be painfully obvious, I had never thought about many of the points he makes. He also writes with a simplicity and a sense of humor that really keep you interested. Once again, everyone should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a reporter from ABC that exposes scam artists on television and explains how he does it and how he finds his information. When I first started reading this book I really got into it and didn't want to put it down. I thought it was interesting how many people get scammed every day, and what things they get scammed out of. About halfway through the book, however, I stopped liking it because he seemed to be complaining about the scam artists and other government actions that scam the people in the U.S. instead of telling about his stories of exposing them. I got sick of the whining and was barely able to finish the book. This book is recommended for people interested in learning about journalism and people who are interested about things not very known that happen in our country every day.