The New Power Elite: The Trouble with America's Newspapers

The New Power Elite: The Trouble with America's Newspapers

by Howard Kurtz
     
 

Journalists may have been considered heroes in the days of Watergate, bringing down a president and upholding our country's ideals of truth and justice, but today reporters are seen as a petulant, sleazy, and haughty bunch. Politicians of all stripes routinely bash the media, and the public has endorsed limits on the press that would have been unthinkable a generation… See more details below

Overview

Journalists may have been considered heroes in the days of Watergate, bringing down a president and upholding our country's ideals of truth and justice, but today reporters are seen as a petulant, sleazy, and haughty bunch. Politicians of all stripes routinely bash the media, and the public has endorsed limits on the press that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. One of the handful of reporters who gets any respect these days is Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post. Kurtz's beat is the press itself, and he never lacks for material. Covering one's peers is a perilous task, but Kurtz is universally acknowledged as a scrupulous reporter, as well as a dogged investigator and lucid writer who can get the bottom of any story - especially the story behind the story. His articles are considered required reading in political circles, especially because he is not afraid to take his own paper to task for its misjudgments. There are no sacred cows in Kurtz's world; in fact, the standing joke in the Post newsroom is that people get nervous when they see him approaching, pen and pad in hand. In Media Circus, Kurtz ventures into America's newsrooms and press galleries to show how newspapers have bungled so many of the important stories of recent years. What he sees is not pretty: editors missing the HUD and S&L scandals while showcasing media manipulators like Donald Trump and Al Sharpton; reporters seduced by power at the White House and during the Gulf war; newspaper coverage of William Kennedy Smith and Clarence Thomas sinking into the gutter; the press continuing to shoot itself in the foot, repeatedly sidetracked by trivia and sleaze during the 1992 presidential campaign. Kurtz pulls no punches in reporting how the press has sacrificed its credibility while failing to stem the tide of newspaper closings, and how racial tensions and ethical lapses have become staples of the new newsroom culture. Laying bare the yawning gaps in the information we receive from our

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This dramatic, important dissection of our daily newspapers by the Washington Post 's media reporter exposes the decline of press power since the heady days of Watergate. Kurtz blasts the tabloidization of newspapers, which increasingly concentrate on the Trumps' marital troubles and the bedrooms of Gary Hart and Bill Clinton; this overshadows the continuing and costly scandals involving HUD and the nation's S&Ls in the Reagan years. Kurtz examines the print medium's sorry record on racial issues and the passivity of correspondents during the Persian Gulf war, when the military managed the news. He also analyzes the impact of USA Today on both page makeup and news coverage, concluding that its sound bites are insufficient to keep the reading public informed. Contending that ``the smell of death'' surrounds many newspapers, Kurtz offers 11 remedies from ``Make People Mad'' to ``Set the Agenda.'' First serial to Washington Post Magazine. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The problems of the American newspaper industry are of its own making, according to Kurtz, media reporter for the Washington Post . His densely packed but lively book revolves around the mishandling of some of the biggest stories of the past decade, including the Gulf War, the savings & loan crisis, Donald Trump's saga, and the William Kennedy Smith rape trial. It's admirably up to date, with chapters on the presidential primaries and election. Considerable attention is given to the Washington Post , the New York Times , and the New York tabloids. A couple of the most gripping accounts concern racial tensions at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe and coverage by the Globe and the Boston Herald of the 1989 Charles Stuart murder case. Unlike James D. Squires's Read All About It!: The Corporate Takeover of America's Newspapers ( LJ 1/93), Kurtz presents a concrete plan for the industry to grow its way out of trouble. Recommended for journalism and media collections.-- Bruce Rosenstein, ``USA Today'' Lib., Arlington, Va.
School Library Journal
YA-An insider's look at journalism today. Kurtz evenhandedly points out the failings, poor judgment, and fuzzy ethical standards exercised by newspapers, including his own Washington Post. He identifies a bias toward bad news, and, beginning with Watergate, an emphasis on scandal. He gives examples of the excess coverage of celebrities, and cites fear of libel for delaying exposure of major stories, such as the S&L scandal. In a readable style, the author relates the history of the newspaper business, and offers remedies to restore its original purpose of providing information. The chapters are short but complete; the detailed bibliography is excellent for research papers. This should be required reading not only for career assignments, but also for classes in civics and social studies, because knowing how articles are put together, and by whom, is essential to thoughtful interpretation. A fascinating discussion of the role of newspapers in our daily lives.-Judy Sokoll, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Gilbert Taylor
The tonier rags employ in-house critics to speak ex cathedra on journalism practices, a chair Kurtz holds for the "Washington Post"; here, he offers anecdotes that illustrate how newsrooms have gone awry. The common denominator he pulls out from such unconnected subjects as the HUD scandal, Donald Trump, "the Decade," racial strife, and various sexual violations reduces itself to the poster-boy policy: to understand a complicated issue, personalize it. For reporters and editors, that means ignoring the S & L hell until its devil appears in Charlie Keating; putting self-promoter Al Sharpton to the forefront of New York's race murders; and boosting to fame no-names connected with infidelity, rape, harassment, or being closet gays. The more the innuendo attaches itself to politicians, so much higher into the stratosphere flies the story, and Kurtz repeats how the Gennifer Flowers and Willie Kennedy Smith extravaganzas took off--and how one such didn't (the non-"outing" of a Pentagon spokesman). With his charter to monitor the newsroom, Kurtz freely flails his compadres, in no particular order, for plagiarism, for letting the military control Gulf War news, and for other inside-baseball infractions. This critique is ephemeral, yet its energetic style and topicality make it a suitable companion to James Squires' salvos at the press in "Read All about It!".

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812920222
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/27/1993
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
464

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