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The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril
The News About the News:
American Journalism in Peril


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Leonard Downie, Jr.

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Robert G. Kaiser
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Leonard Downie Jr. has worked since 1964 at the Washington Post, where he has been an investigative reporter, a principal editor in the paper’s Watergate coverage, a foreign correspondent, national editor, managing editor and, since 1991, executive editor, succeeding Ben Bradlee. This is his fourth book. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Robert G. Kaiser, who joined the Post in 1963, has been a local, national and foreign correspondent, assistant managing editor for national news and managing editor. He is now associate editor and senior correspondent. This is his sixth book. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Photo (c) Lucian Perkins

From two of America’s most prominent and accomplished journalists, an impassioned investigation of an endangered species, good journalism.

Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser—both reporters and editors at the Washington Post for nearly four decades—take us inside the American news media to reveal why the journalism we watch and read is so often so bad, and to explain what can be done about it.

They demonstrate how the media’s preoccupation with celebrities, entertainment, sensationalism and profits can make a mockery of news. They remind us of the value of serious journalism with inside accounts of how great stories were reported and written—a New York Times investigation of Scientology and the IRS, and a Washington Post exposé of police excesses. They recount a tense debate inside their own newsroom about whether to publicize a presidential candidate’s long-ago love affair.

They also provide surprisingly candid interviews with Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw. The authors explain why local television news is so uninformative. They evaluate news on the Internet, noting how unreliable it can be, and why it is so important to the future of the news business.

Coverage of the terrorist attacks on America in the fall of 2001 demonstrated that the news media can still do outstanding work, Downie and Kaiser write, but that does not guarantee a bright future for news. Their book makes exceedingly clear why serious, incorruptible, revelatory reporting is crucial to the health of American society if we are to be informed, equipped to make decisions and protected from the abuse of power. And it allows all of us to feel like insiders in one of America’s most powerful institutions, the media.

"Drawing on their rich experience as top editors of the Washington Post, Leonard Downie and Robert Kaiser have written a timely, thorough report on the future of news. They cite the pressures in journalism today, but reject easy gloom-and-doom conclusions-rather, they see the continuing value of good journalism, whatever its form, as crucial to our society."
-David Laventhol, Editorial Director, Columbia Journalism Review

"Rarely have such prominent, powerful editors broken with the gentlemen's club of journalism to take their colleagues to task so candidly. Reporting methodically from inside their profession, Downie and Kaiser skewer the profit-hungry miscreants and extol the solid, serious practitioners of a vital craft."
-David K. Shipler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and former New York Times reporter