Paradoxically, there are few topics in the news more controversial than the media. In fact, complaining about "manipulative media" has become a prime time cause for politicians and activists of every ideological shade. In this engaging illustrated book, Brooke Gladstone, the award-winning host of NPR's On the Media, tackles the subject with the aid of talented social cartoonist Josh Neufeld. Her historical tour from the early "penny press" to the advent of internet news center includes cautionary notes about framing the facts to fit our opinions and the fine art of detecting false statistics. (P.S. The New York Observer described The Influencing Machine as "Art Spiegelman meets Marshall McLuhan.")
The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Mediaby Brooke Gladstone
Nearly one million weekly listeners trust NPR's Brooke Gladstone to guide them through the distortions and complexities of the modern media. This brilliant radio personality now bursts onto the page as an illustrated character in vivid comics drawn by acclaimed artist Josh Neufeld. The cartoon of Brooke conducts the reader through two millennia of history-from the
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Nearly one million weekly listeners trust NPR's Brooke Gladstone to guide them through the distortions and complexities of the modern media. This brilliant radio personality now bursts onto the page as an illustrated character in vivid comics drawn by acclaimed artist Josh Neufeld. The cartoon of Brooke conducts the reader through two millennia of history-from the newspapers in Caesar's Rome to the penny press of the American Revolution and the manipulations of contemporary journalism. Gladstone's manifesto debunks the notion that "The Media" is an external force, outside of our control, since we've begun directly constructing, filtering, and responding to what we watch and read. With fascinating digressions, sobering anecdotes, and brave analytical wit, The Influencing Machine equips us to be smart, savvy, informed consumers and shapers of the media. It shows that we have met the media and it is us. So now what?
Though the graphic format employed here is often playful and always reader friendly, this analysis of contemporary journalism is as incisive as it is entertaining, while offering a lesson on good citizenship through savvy media consumption.
As co-host of NPR'sOn the Media,radio veteran Gladstone must have gotten a change-of-pace kick out of a project so dependent on visuals in general and her own caricature in particular. She finds an ideal collaborator in artist Neufeld, whoseA.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge(2009) could be categorized as graphic journalism.While the current technological revolution has many claiming that journalism has reached a state of crisis, if not obsolescence, the author takes a longer view, emphasizing not only that "we've been here before," but that"Everything we hate about media today was present at its creation." Instead of wringing her hands over manipulation and distortion, as well as the pesky impossibility of objectivity, Gladstone focuses more of her attention on biases that are institutional rather than ideological.Among them: commercial bias toward "conflict and momentum" (the narrative momentum that attracts readership), the access bias that results in self-censorship, the fairness bias that makes it seem like two sides have equal weight (when there could be many sides). The author also shows how every president eventually considers the press an adversary, and why war reporting tends to be particularly problematic ("Every media bias shows up in war reporting, in spades." Ultimately, she urges a democracy that relies on media to share responsibility "by playing an active role in our media consumption."
While some may see a sign of bias in the author's own media affiliation, this historical analysis of how and why media and society shape each other should prove illuminating for general readers and media practitioners alike.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 7.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)
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Meet the Author
Brooke Gladstone is cohost of NPR's On the Media and a former senior editor at Weekend Edition and All Things Considered. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Josh Neufeld is the author of A. D.: New Orleans After the Deluge and A Few Perfect Hours. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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This comic book is cute and Gladstone is impressed with her own cuteness. She states, and restates the obvious, posing as a balanced and understanding voice of reason she dosen't seem to notice herself as a creature of the left as much as a hipper than thou paladin of righteous journalistic virtue. And realize this really is a set of comics not a book. Your money will be better spent. and you'll find deeper insights, picking up a Calvin and Hobbes anthology.
I found this book to be quite interesting and informatitve. Graphic novels such as these are an amazing find, because it takes a subject some may turn away and adds an extra dimension to enhance its palatability. Now unlike UncleDennis (the previous reviewer) I do enjoy both graphic novels and standard novels, and I find both formats to be of value. UncleDennis mentioned a book by Tim Groseclose called Left Turn, and if you enjoy the topic of media bias I would recommend both books (although Gloseclose suggests that the Wall Street Journal is one of the hardest left leaning media outlets out there, I believe Mr. Murdock would disagree). So, I would say that anyone who enjoys a good historical run through on the develop on the media, matched with wonderful artwork and sensational storytelling to pick this gem up. P.S. If you did enjoy this book, I would pick Darryl Cunnimgham's Psychiatric Tales. Different subject matter, same presentation.
Actually, after hearing a little bit about the book from NPR's program, "On the Media", I checked it out from my local library. It was so good, I decided to order it from Barnes & Noble. I loved the comic book format because it illustrated the narrative so well...(a picture is worth a thousand words). It was a very entertaining way to learn about the history of how the media has changed throughout the centuries and how it has influenced our views politically, psychologically, commercially, and intellectually.
So, I bought this book on a whim at my local Barnes & Noble, knowing full well that an author who works for NPR could lean a little (or a lot) to the left. But, after a quick scan of the book in the store, it seemed to be a light (i.e., <200 pages) read with interesting illustrations. Well, I was duped. Ms. Gladstone does her best to make some kind of case that the media in our country is the result of what we expect, or something like this. To say that the book has no liberal bias, let alone doesn't recognize bias in the media, would be the biggest understatement(s) you could make about it. "Uncle Walt" (Cronkite) is held up as the pinnacle of straight-forward news, with no further in-depth investigation of either his "losing Vietnam" reporting or his modern day musings that have shown his true left-leanings. Swift Boaters? Republican-machine funded liars. Couldn't possibly be truthtellers. 2000 Election - fair reporting here! No chance that media outlets (your usual culprits of the NY Times, LA Times, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, et al.) could be taking sides in the outcome. NY Times - certainly not liberal. After all, it's a "big corporation," and we all know big corporations are just money-hungry right-leaning organizations. Bias... huh? And beyond all of this, Ms. Gladstone cares not to mention the influence of the big players in alternative media-- Pajamas Media (born of Rathergate, which is completely avoided in the book), which is completely ignored. Agenda Journalism would seem to be a better explanation for how Ms. Gladstone views the appropriate role of the media. The word "objectivity" is used in the latter pages, but I fully can't remember how it even appeared considering the views purported by the author. In summary, I have to say I learned NOTHING from this book. The illustrations are really a nice thing, and they help to get the points of the book across (so hipsters and the easily influence by pretty pictures would enjoy the book more), but as a guide to the media, I can't say it's worth reading. Heck, I may have dozed off a few times (I do tend to read late at night, but I give at least 50% of the blame to the book this time), so don't use my review alone to decide whether to purchase the book. I'd like to recommend a different book, but having not read Tim Groseclose's "Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind" I don't want to comment yet (note to the B&N staff at the Glendale Americana: hold a book for me - I'll stop by this weekend for Left Turn).