Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, and Other Fun Stuff We Talk About Because Nobody Else Will

( 6 )

Overview

A “feisty, literate, and uncompromising” (Publishers Weekly) primer on the most urgent issues of our day, from the creators and co-hosts of Citizen Radio, a listener-supported show whose slogan is “independent radio that won’t lead you to war.”

#Newsfail is definitely not your grandmother’s comedic-memoir-slash-political-manifesto. From page one (in a preface titled, “In Which the Authors Interview Ralph Nader in the Bathtub”), comedian Jamie Kilstein and journalist Allison ...

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Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, and Other Fun Stuff We Talk About Because Nobody Else Will

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Overview

A “feisty, literate, and uncompromising” (Publishers Weekly) primer on the most urgent issues of our day, from the creators and co-hosts of Citizen Radio, a listener-supported show whose slogan is “independent radio that won’t lead you to war.”

#Newsfail is definitely not your grandmother’s comedic-memoir-slash-political-manifesto. From page one (in a preface titled, “In Which the Authors Interview Ralph Nader in the Bathtub”), comedian Jamie Kilstein and journalist Allison Kilkenny pledge to give you the news like you’ve never gotten it before.

On issues ranging from feminism to gun control, climate change to class war, foreign policy to net neutrality, they tell you how the mainstream media gets it left, right, and utterly, unforgivably, irresponsibly wrong—think Noam Chomsky as channeled by Fred and Carrie from Portlandia. #Newsfail is all this, plus the story of Allison and Jamie’s own DIY foray into independent media via their podcast, Citizen Radio, which has featured guests such as Jeremy Scahill, Sarah Silverman, Glenn Greenwald, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and been downloaded millions of times by people all over the world.

In #Newsfail, they “make a strong case that a greater range of voices needs to be part of the national media discussion, including theirs” (Kirkus Reviews). Their mission is truth-telling above brainwashing. All you have to do is listen.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/18/2014
Touting the bold message that “independent radio that won’t lead you to war,” comedian Kilstein and journalist Kilkenny tell the tale of their popular podcast, Citizen Radio, with equal doses of edgy humor and insight. The show’s creators, inspired by the pioneering news program Democracy Now, realized their brand of censor-free, low-budget media without the influence of corporate cash would go against the commercial grain, running counter to mainstream media’s focus of “sexy over substance, drama over facts.” Under their mission statement of “truth-telling above brainwashing,” no person or topic escapes their barbed scrutiny whether it’s the “climate change denial cult,” Fox News, CNN, “legitimate rape,” same-sex marriage, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, Glenn Beck, the War on Drugs and legalized weed, or Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. When the authors tackle gun control and Constitutional guarantees, they argue the obvious with a wry statement of truth: “Of course you can kill people with other objects aside from guns, but the point is it’s a lot more difficult to commit massacres with objects that aren’t guns.” Feisty, literate, and uncompromising, the work of Kilstein and Kilkenny stresses the role of a free and independent press as a powerful guardian of democracy. (Oct.)
Jeremy Scahill
“Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny are a modern day social justice, non-violent, vegan, punk, anti-war, feminist Bonnie and Clyde. Their weapons are simple: the pen, the airwaves, and a searing sense of humor. Their targets are the rich, the powerful, corporate media barons and basically any major league assholes.”
Bustle
“[Newsfail] is one hell of a feisty, intelligent, and uncompromising read. This particular hybrid of memoir and truth-telling will make you rethink not only where you get your news, but how you get it, and what really matters when it comes to discussing the subjects humans should find vital to our existence.”
Red Eye
“Kilstein and Kilkenny sound so damn smart and exude an aura of cool that you find yourself nodding along… they intersperse funny, personal anecdotes among the serious and often downright depressing facts and figures. Between the pages of political agitation is a self-deprecating, snarky love story.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-09-10
Populist podcasters offer a manifesto on the failings of mainstream media.Kilstein is a stand-up comedian, and Kilkenny is a journalist whose work has appeared in the Nation. As married collaborators, they launched Citizen Radio as a shoestring, listener-supported alternative to what they viewed as the omissions, distortions and false equivalencies of better-known news outlets, even those termed "liberal." They see media in which the moderate middle has shifted to the right, since Democrats are no longer as progressive as Republicans are conservative, and news organizations commonly considered liberal have shirked their watchdog responsibilities during the Obama era. Whatever value Jon Stewart once had in exposing political hypocrisy and malfeasance, they now see him as "at best, an armchair activist's watercooler conversation starter." None of their views are likely to surprise anyone or convince someone who disagrees: They are pro-choice vegans who strongly supported the Occupy movement, think adversaries of global-warming activism are delusional at best, consider the drug war a massive resource drain (besides, alcohol is more dangerous, and most of those targeted have been black) and maintain that, for example, there are "way, way, WAY more Palestinians dying in this conflict than Israelis, probably because Israel has the second-greatest army in the world, which is really just the US Military 2.0, thanks to our billions of dollars in subsidization." Though their analyses tend toward broadsides with occasional punch lines, they make a strong case that a greater range of voices needs to be part of the national media discussion, including theirs. "The people whose voices matter the most are also the least likely to get heard," they write. "When you turn on the news, it's the same rich old white people that have systematically ruined this country regurgitating the same tired, stale ideas." A call to action for those who don't like the news to make their own.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476706511
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 10/14/2014
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 238,340
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jamie Kilstein is a stand-up comedian, who has been featured on The Conan O’Brien Show, Showtime, Up With Chris, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and NPR’s Weekend Edition. One time, Glenn Beck called him a doofus, which is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to him.

Allison Kilkenny has previously reported for The Nation and has appeared on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show and Up With Chris, and Democracy Now. One time, G. Gordon Liddy told Allison that her writing “makes him want to vomit,” which is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to her.

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Read an Excerpt

Newsfail


  • There were many points at which security could (and, in retrospect, should) have stopped us from entering MSNBC.

For starters, we are both covered in tattoos, neither of us possesses particularly sophisticated sartorial tastes, Allison sometimes has accidental “death stare,” and Jamie often mistakes creepy for charming. We may have also had the wild-eyed, sweaty demeanor of newly liberated podcasters, recently escaped from an internet radio network that had asked us to take on Big Business sponsors—something we had strictly sworn off.

You see, the authors had aspirations of being pristine angels of independent media, untouched and unsullied by corporate cash. We would be the people’s media—that was the whole idea behind the name of our show, Citizen Radio. There was also the fact that no sponsor in their right mind would touch our show, but phrasing it the first way made us feel better about ourselves.

That concept of being sponsor-free hadn’t flown with the people who, ya know, we were supposed to be making money for. Say, our former boss.

Our whole career up until that point had essentially been managers, agents, and other boss-types saying, “We love you because you are political and edgy!” Then, once they saw what that nightmare actually entails, added, “Hey, could you not be political or edgy? But everything else, we LOVE!”

Case in point: During a time when we were covering the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, circa 2007, our former boss asked us to take on AT&T as a sponsor. Mind you, at the time AT&T was being sued over allegations that the company provided the NSA with its customers’ phone and internet communications as part of a vast data-mining operation, so to us it seemed a bit like a conflict of interest.

“This is Citizen Radio saying, if you are going to be spied on, be spied on by the best: AT&T! They’re always listening!”

That’s when we decided to walk. We didn’t need a network or bosses. We were going to be free and supported by our listeners! This was the first day of our triumphant escape from the milieu of servitude. No one would dictate what stories we could and could not cover. No one would censor us!

Freedom! Beautiful, terrible freedom!

The only problem was: no one knew us. No one knew what Citizen Radio was. Then, we had a brilliant idea. We would get some big names to appear on the podcast as guests to drive up traffic. Sure, no one knew who the hell Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein were, but have you heard of a little lady named Rachel Maddow? Huh?? Have you?!

That’s what we thought.

Thus, in order to flee the belly of the beast, we found ourselves entering its lair. Corporateville. Sucktown. MSNBC. Mainstream media.

Sure, it was the liberal arm of the giant, but it was still the very thing we were trying to escape. This was sort of like if Code Pink hired General Petraeus as their PR person.

Regardless, Maddow was nice enough to invite us to a taping of her show and to sit down for an interview with us afterward.

NBC Studios at 30 Rock is located inside a beautiful building that was constructed to make you feel upon crossing its threshold like a failure who will never amount to anything. Or that’s how we felt walking in, anyway. Everything is sleek surfaces and severe right angles. The carpet is printed with millions of small NBC peacocks, mocking your very existence. They seem to say, “Welcome to the real show, stupid podcasters!”

This was back in 2010, when MSNBC had recently granted Lawrence O’Donnell his own spot following Maddow. In fact, he was set to debut his show that very evening. Allison was dismayed at this news. From the first moment she laid eyes upon Mr. O’Donnell’s face, Allison has always harbored a general mistrust of him. Maybe it was because of the MSNBC commercials where he’s seemingly annexed a grade school classroom, occupied it, and refused to leave, and is now mansplaining life to his audience. Allison always imagined a class of third graders just out of frame, noses pressed to the door, their cries muffled as they plead, “Can we come back in yet, Mr. O’Donnell??”

Maddow’s studio is a state-of-the-art thing of beauty. The three cameras that film the show are robotic and glide around the lacquered floor in an intricate ballet. For comparison, our current studio is located inside our apartment and our equipment comprises a laptop, microphones, and a blue kid’s table from IKEA that cost twenty dollars. When we have a guest over, instead of having an unpaid intern who offers them a cappuccino, we have Jamie, who offers them a Zyrtec because “if the cats don’t come in the office, they throw a real fit. This will help with the sneezing.”

As an observer at MSNBC, you feel like a big clumsy ape in the robot cameras’ presences, relocated to the side of the set on one of three chairs propped up on a platform, desperately trying not to do anything that will fuck up this awesome high-tech choreography.

Jamie glared angrily at the cameras. Citizen Radio is an extremely low-budget affair (remember: IKEA table), but was especially so in the early days, when we recorded the show on our cell phones. Both hosts (i.e., us) called into the same number and a soundboard on the internet would record the show. It’s cool in the sense that anyone—literally, anyone—can create their own show, and we thought, Hey! We’re anyone! Let’s make a pretend phone show!

The only problem was, if the hosts stood too close together, there was massive feedback. This resulted in some highly awkward moments like when Allison and Jamie were interviewing then presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who was under the impression he was on a real show.

Nader gave a compelling answer to some question, and thrilled, Jamie flew back into the main room to give Allison an enthusiastic thumbs-up, which is when feedback tore through the room, and Allison whisper-shouted, “GET BACK IN THE BATHROOM!”

Jamie conducted the rest of the interview squatted in the bathtub and Mr. Nader probably realized he’d made a terrible mistake.

MSNBC doesn’t have to deal with these kinds of problems. When Chris Matthews’s earpiece goes out, he doesn’t look over to Thomas Roberts, who is happily giving him the thumbs-up, and have to scream, “Back in the tub, Roberts!”

Jamie was having Nader-related flashbacks and was convinced he was going to somehow mess up The Rachel Maddow Show. The show is live and he has a track record of ruining quiet moments. Earlier that year, he accidentally pocket-dialed his brother during his family’s Passover prayer. His family is still mad about that to this day. Seriously.

When you get on set at Maddow’s show, guests are hooked into a sound pack so they can hear the whole show, including the video clips Maddow plays throughout the hour. The pack is fixed to the waistband of the guest’s pants and a cord extends upward to an earpiece. Then the entire apparatus is attached to the chair. Other than the mouth-breather guests, the studio is virtually empty: just Rachel Maddow, a producer, and chairs.

Jamie did a frantic checklist. For example, he made sure his phone was off, so no one would hear his ringtone (Glee’s “Don’t Stop Believing”) during Maddow’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell segment. And as if he wasn’t stressed enough, now the authors were each strapped to a chair, perched atop a tiny ledge.

It’s the worst place in the world to, say, have a spasming coughing fit. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Allison, who desperately tried to remain quiet by muffling her distressed wheezing into her hand as though one of the robot cameras might come to life and attack her.

Jamie stared in shocked disbelief, not only trying to figure out what the hell to do, but also because it wasn’t his fault! He wasn’t the embarrassment! Allison was the responsible one. She’s the one who drives to the emergency room, while Jamie is the one who asks, “How much blood can you lose before you die?!”

The harder she tried not to cough, the worse it got. Knowing she was about to experience an epic coughing fit, Allison darted off the platform, completely forgetting she was anchored to the chair. She would have torn it off the stage and fallen through the curtain had it not been for Jamie grabbing the chair as it flew past him. Allison quickly untangled herself from the sound pack, parted the curtains that led to the main floor of the studio, and nearly ran headfirst into . . .

Lawrence Fucking O’Donnell.

Allison almost clotheslined the guy set to debut his show that night, while projecting mucus all over his face, which in a weird way, is kind of a perfect metaphor for Citizen Radio. As cool as their elevators are, as nice as it would be to have a staff, or an office, or ROBOTS, it was clear this whole establishment-media thing and us would never work. Even when we’re somehow accidentally on the inside, we always manage to fuck shit up.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2014

    A hilarious (and necessary) critique on the failings of contempo

    A hilarious (and necessary) critique on the failings of contemporary news media written in an irreverent style from two fabulous podcasters—independent journalist Allison Kilkenny, and comedian Jamie Kilstein. They never fail to drag a topic into the "uncomfortable" zone that everyone else avoids and call-out media outlets that have shamelessly sold-out, towed the part-line, and continuously kowtow to corporate influence.

    In short: discusses progressive issues and mainstream media fails without launching you into a bottomless depression, and never fails to interject with hilarious anecdotes and silly asides...also they swear a lot and it's glorious.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 19, 2014

    Great read so far.  I got it, started reading it and before I kn

    Great read so far.  I got it, started reading it and before I knew it was half-way through.  You may not agree with these two all the time.  Well you should...at least listen to what they are saying. They are insightful, 'literate' and they always tell it straight.  Something the mainstream media (both "sides") rarely does.  They do not pander to advertisers (they have none).  Support indepentent artists and media.  This one is a must buy for everyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2014

    I've been waiting for this book for a while and it's as excellen

    I've been waiting for this book for a while and it's as excellent as I'd expected!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2014

    Funny and educational! This book reminds me why we need to quest

    Funny and educational! This book reminds me why we need to question the establishment, but it also gives me hope that democracy can change the world. And I wasn't expecting mouth-watering recipes to be included!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2014

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