The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media

3.0 7
by Brooke Gladstone, Josh Neufeld

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"Mind-opening, thought-provoking and incredibly timely… An absolutely spectacular read."—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing  See more details below


"Mind-opening, thought-provoking and incredibly timely… An absolutely spectacular read."—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

Editorial Reviews

Stephen Colbert
“A great book.”
The Atlantic
“One of the coolest and most charming book releases of this year.”
The New Yorker
“A comic book with zest and brains—and it just might help a reader understand the brave new world.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“It’s easy to imagine The Influencing Machine becoming mandatory reading in journalism classes around the country.”

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.")

Publishers Weekly
Gladstone, cohost of NPR's On the Media, and noted illustrator Neufeld (A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge) make a formidable pair in this fascinating history of media's influence. Gladstone is both narrator and visual tour guide, popping up throughout Neufeld's panels as both her contemporary self and wittily camouflaged alongside historical figures. From the "Acta Diurna" posted in ancient Rome to the outcries over President Adams's Alien and Sedition Acts and McCarthy's Red Scare, Gladstone traces not only the birth of the press but also its various muzzles. The press will not always stay silent, as she illustrates with Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and Woodward and Bernstein's uncovering of the Watergate scandal. Yet government opacity still abounds, and Gladstone pointedly wonders if secrecy really makes us safer. One of the most intriguing sections deals with bias, a term tossed around so often it's become almost meaningless. Gladstone points to seven key biases that cognizant media consumers should worry about: commercial, bad news, status quo, access, visual, narrative, and fairness. These dovetail nicely into a frank discussion of war journalism, which highlights Neufeld's considerable skills, with each panel bursting with situational details. Gladstone's is an indispensible guide to our ever-evolving media landscape that's brought vividly to life. (May)
New Yorker
“This is a comic book with zest and brains—-and it just might help a reader understand the brave new world.”
New York Observer
Think Art Spiegelman meets Marshall McLuhan.— Leon Neyfakh
Kirstin Butler - The Atlantic
“One of the coolest and most charming book releases of this year… a refreshingly alternative approach to the age-old issue of why we disparage and distrust the news.”
Leon Neyfakh - New York Observer
“Think Art Spiegelman meets Marshall McLuhan.”
Scott McCloud
“A first-rate comics manifesto. The Influencing Machine has influenced me to think much more deeply about the media landscape live in. Gladstone and Neufeld can show and tell with the best of ‘em.”
New York Observer - Leon Neyfakh
“Think Art Spiegelman meets Marshall McLuhan.”
Alison Bechdel
“The Influencing Machine is an indispensable guidebook for anyone who hopes to navigate the mirages and constantly shifting sands of our media landscape. Brooke Gladstone’s text and Josh Neufeld’s images illuminate one another with crackling wit and intelligence.”
Ira Glass
“Like Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis or Michael Pollan, Brooke somehow takes a subject most of us don’t give a damn about and makes it completely entertaining.”
Scott McCloud
“A first-rate comics manifesto. The Influencing Machine has influenced me to think much more deeply about the media landscape live in. Gladstone and Neufeld can show and tell with the best of ‘em.”
Michael Kinsley
“Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine is so remarkable that it is hard to describe. The best I can do is: it’s a book about the history and current controversies of the media, all done as a Spiegelman-style comic-strip narrative. Brooke herself (or at least an avatar) leads you through it all, and her ‘voice’—well known after her years as host of NPR’s On the Media—comes through loud and clear, thanks to Josh Neufeld's witty drawings. I learned a lot, including a lot that I should have known already, and enjoyed every minute.”
Library Journal
"In a world of ceaseless distractions, ideas that grab you by the eyeballs are more likely to stick," Gladstone noted in her proposal for this graphic novel (New York Observer, 5/26/09). Indeed, the result is as much a public service announcement for the power of comics as it is a disquisition on media in general. Like a chatty but interesting poli-sci professor, Gladstone's lines-on-paper avatar takes us through media history, source accuracy (or not), journalist impartiality (or not), bias (seven kinds), dilemmas relating to war reporting, objectivity (or not), disclosure, tricks the mind plays on understanding news stories, and how the media mirror ourselves in all of our human diversity now and into the future. Neufeld's black-and-white art, enlivened with teal wash, enhances Gladstone's points effectively, although without the compelling appeal of his lauded A.D. New Orleans: After the Deluge. Gladstone has been cohost of NPR's On the Media since 2000. VERDICT This comprehensive overview of media history and issues—responsibly referenced in over 200 detailed notes—should be required reading for nearly everybody over age ten, media students, and plain ole citizens, especially. Highly recommended.—M.C.
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

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Stephen Colbert
A great book.

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The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Cat1989 More than 1 year ago
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.
UncleDennis More than 1 year ago
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).