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Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and…

Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism (edition 2002)

by John F. Stacks

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361313,489 (3.38)2
Title:Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism
Authors:John F. Stacks
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2002), Edition: 1st ed, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library, To read (inactive)
Tags:TBR, Non-Fiction, USA

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Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism by John F. Stacks



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James (Scotty) Reston was a famous and well respected reporter, editor and columnist for the New York Times from the 1940s through the 1970s; he retired in 1989. In the end, he was thought to be compromised as a columnist because of his too-close and too-friendly ties with some of the newsmakers he covered, chief of which was Henry Kissinger. Although he was still revered by many of his colleagues and the journalists he mentored, Scott’s image was tarnished somewhat.

After reading Arthur Gelb’s City Room, his memoir of life at the New York Times, the one character I wanted to know more about was Reston. His was an amazing story: a Scottish immigrant who came to the US without many advantages, without the pedigree and Ivy League education that many of his contemporaries enjoyed, and made it to the top anyway. I came away with an appreciation of what he accomplished and saddened by how he squandered some of it.

John F Stacks does a wonderful job of combing the Reston Papers (at the University of Illinois, Scott’s alma mater), interviewing Reston’s contemporaries and family, and synthesizing it into a readable and insightful story.

I don’t know why I’m fascinated with journalism history, and the New York Times specifically, but reading Scotty has not dampened my enthusiasm and, in fact, gave me a short list of other books I want to read about what I consider pretty interesting topics. ( )
  NewsieQ | Oct 20, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316809853, Hardcover)

Those of us in the journalism racket consume almost any book about our peers, but the really good ones speak beyond this inside audience to comment on the role the media plays in American society, and this ambitious biography of The New York Times celebrated Washington correspondent of the '60s does just that. James "Scotty" Reston was a shrewd and canny reporter of the old school (he always did the necessary legwork) with a skill for writing clear, direct, and sometimes poetic prose that struck directly at the heart of the matter. (As early as August 1965, he presciently wrote of Vietnam: "We could win the war and lose the people, and that would be the final irony of the story.") His diligence was rewarded with the sort of unfettered access to presidents and other top policymakers that is unthinkable today. The book opens with a vignette in which President Kennedy unburdens himself in incredibly frank language about his frightening meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961. (Kennedy talked to Reston minutes after the session ended, before he'd even briefed any of his top aides and advisors.)

For Stacks, a veteran reporter for Time magazine, the loss of this sort of access in favor of the relentless spin machine that dominates today is nothing less than a tragedy, but he isn't completely dewy-eyed about the past or his subject. In classic corporate fashion, Reston was promoted to his level of incompetence. He was a great reporter, but a lousy editor and later-day columnist, and he finally allowed his proximity to power to cloud his vision in the mid-'70s, when he essentially became a willing mouthpiece for the Machiavellian Henry Kissinger. In addition to tracking a fascinating story and offering a unique perspective on familiar historical events, Scotty is a worthy read for illustrating just how difficult it is to maintain the "outsider" stance necessary for good journalism--and just how much this country needs it. --Jim DeRogatis

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:16 -0400)

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A portrait of one of the twentieth century's most influential journalists describes the role of James B. Reston in shaping and transforming American journalism and sheds new light on Reston's impact on U.S. politics.

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