GOOD Books about Journalistic Scandals
GOOD Books is a weekly round-up of what we're reading and what we wish we were reading.
This week’s headlines were full of Ruperts: Murdoch the media mogul and Grint, who plays Ron in Harry Potter. While I’m sure there are several folks out there who’d love a list of five Rupert Grint-inspired novels, we’ve chosen to focus on the more sinister of the two.
Rupert Murdoch's scandal-scarred News of the World shut down this week due to a phone-hacking charge. The controversy not only brings to light past corruption but raises questions about the nature of journalism itself. In the age of the blogosphere and live newsfeeds, journalists are under even more pressure to be the first to run with a story. Still, that does little to explain what made Murdoch’s crew resort to hacking into a murdered girl's phone.
The Murdoch scandal was not the first of its kind (nor will it be the last). In light of the controversy, we bring you five GOOD Books that spotlight flaws, scandals, and ethical conundrums in journalism.
The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst
By David Nasaw
736 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $16.95
Before the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, there was William Hearst: the mogul to end all media moguls. Hearst founded the first great media empire at the tender age of 24, and his quest for world media domination (or something like it) was so enthralling that Orson Welles based his most lauded movie on it. Even Ayn Rand wrote Hearst into a book (Gail Wynand) Following in the footsteps of Joseph Pulitzer, he created newspapers based on sensationalism and dramatics: he made the news as much as he reported it. The Chief shows Hearst’s empire for what it was: a blatant quest for personal power.
By Tom Rachman
272 pages. Random House. $25.00
The Imperfectionists profiles a family of sometimes depressing, always neurotic journalists working for a failing English-language newspaper in Rome. Each chapter covers a different character, from the corrections editor who creates a “Bible” for the paper based on words and grammatical phrases that should never be used (e.g. the word “literally”, which many people would agree with), to the publisher, who only pays attention to his dog, Schopenhauer. The dog’s name, after a German philosopher who came to the conclusion that the best way to live is to negate all our personal desires, epitomizes the main theme of the entire novel: that the ideal of journalistic objectivity is constantly threatened by personal desire.
By Evelyn Waugh
336 pages. Little, Brown & Company. $14.99
All William Boot ever wanted to write about was otters and leaves. Instead, he winds up in a fictional country in East Africa, mistaken for a more legitimate journalist, forced to scrounge around for facts on a raging war to report back to his newspaper employers at The Daily Beast (yep, that’s where they got it). Scoop poignantly satirizes the world of journalism, calling into question the lengths to which people are willing to go to break a story. Although light in tone, the novel makes you wonder if there’s really such a thing as a “disinterested” party.
By Paul Maliszewski
245 pages. The New Press. $24.95
Reporters fictionalizing stories is nothing new, and Fakers compiles of many of those stories, from Stephen Glass to James Frey to Clifford Irving, who went so far as to fake an entire Howard Hughes autobiography (which is just plain impressive). Maliszewski himself admits to writing columns as a fictionalized character for a New York financial journal in the '90s. Much of what Maliszewski has to say deals with the lines drawn, ethically speaking, between “slant” or “perspective” and something more serious.
New Grub Street
By George Gissing
559 pages. Broadview Press. $18.95
New Grub Street was first published more than a century ago but the storyline remains ageless. The novel follows two characters: Edwin Reardon, the honest-to-a-fault writer who struggles to make an impact on the literary world while keeping his integrity, and Jasper Milvain, a cynical, money-driven journalist who is all too happy to cater to the masses who desire nothing but fluff. “Writing is a business," he proclaims. In the end, the ultimate question is one that writers from every era can sympathize with: Which is better, sticking to artistic integrity, or catering to the crowds for a better chance at profit?
When Humans Fight, but Animals Win Penguins have resorted to using landmines to keep pesky humans away.
So You Think You’re a Foodie? Pop culture was onto these trends way before you were. A sampling of the screwball comedies, sob stories, and sci-fis that anticipated our culinary moment
Dear Nine-Year-Old Me The transition is going to be difficult for you, but whenever you feel a little lonely and left out, take comfort in the knowledge that you are honing one of your greatest superpowers.
What to Do When Your Country is Drowning The wild and desperate ways island nations are fighting the effects of climate change
The Rise of Drone Pizza Delivery Why the skies will soon be filled with flying, snack-bearing robots
How Helsinki Became a Public Transporation Paradise One European city plans to make car ownership obsolete within a decade.
Follow the Crowd NanoCrafter and the rise of group intelligence Why online gaming may just be the future of science
The Empathy Mirror Neurofeedback enables us to better see ourselves in the other. Recent discoveries in neurofeedback can teach you to be less of a dick.
Robots On Ice Probe the Arctic Why a team of research robots is investigating disappearing sea ice, and why you should care
Don’t Turn Away Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change. You will never see more beautiful photos of the deteriorating state of our planet than the ones in this photo feature.
Puppy Love How dogecoin spawned an improbable community of giving What a canine-emblazoned cryptocurrency can teach about philanthropy
Positive In, Positive Out: How a USC Alumna is Coping with Lymphoma Coast Guard Reserves member Cassie Sulfridge, 28, had just graduated from MSW@USC, the Southern California university’s web-based Master of Social Work program, and was working two jobs when her life was turned upside down.