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Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism (edition 2002)
Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism by John F. Stacks
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:38 -0400)
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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