Writing about the explosion of the 24-hour news cycle, the ever-growing number of podcasts and the challenge of separating true from fake news, Bob Schieffer and three contributors examine political news today. They provide an insider’s look at the changing media scene and ask, “Are today’s citizens more informed or just overwhelmed?”
The book is based on interviews with 40 media leaders from across the United States. The journalists’ common responses make it unmistakably clear that news reporting is becoming more and more fragmented. As the choices of media proliferates, and as everyone participates through social media, sometimes with malevolent motives, it is increasingly difficult to discern which news sources are providing accurate and fair information.
Schieffer and H. Andrew Schwartz explore several key findings about the current status of the fourth estate:
1. Americans are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of news. “They cannot process it.”
2. “Fake news” is lucrative and purposely published for financial and political gain, and threatens democracies that rely on truth.
3. America’s polling is no longer accurate because of the shift from landlines to mobile phones. A new polling methodology is needed.
4. Good newspapers which produce critical journalism are still available, such as the New York Times and Washington Post. The shift in advertising from print to online media is closing local newspapers. The demise of regional investigative reporting leads to a rise of local government corruption.
5. The middle road of politics has been devastated. The U.S. electoral system has become so messed up that thoughtful, wise people avoid running for office. Gerrymandering has had a deleterious and dangerous effect on election outcomes. The media need to do a better job of exposing this peril to democracy.
6. The Millennial Generation is altering journalism because members rely increasingly on digital-only media that give emphasis to the immediate sounds and sights of incidents and commentary over verified information.
I found the “Afterword” to be the best part of the book. Schieffer illustrates what journalistic skill and doggedness looks like by including an excellent investigative report by David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. Fahrenthold won the Pulitzer Prize for his report on Donald Trump’s charitable giving. The talented reporter listened to the candidate’s claims and then checked with more than 300 charities to see if Trump’s statements held true. With the Post’s permission, Schieffer reprints the full, brilliant article.
This book is fascinating and informative, but lacks organization. It seems to have been hurriedly put together in reaction to the 2016 Presidential election and, as a result, the content is a curious mishmash of information. However, I would still encourage politically interested people to read it and it should become required reading for journalism students.
Bob Schieffer, known mainly as a longtime host for CBS TVs “Face the Nation,” wrote much of the book. H. Andrew Schwartz contributed chapters on digital-only and Internet- only news websites, podcasts, and online newsletters. Lucy Boyd wrote the chapter on fake news and Katie Bunton wrote the chapter on training reporters for the new era.
Schieffer spent 48 of his 60 years in journalism at CBS news. At 80 years old, he is still podcasting weekly with H. Andrew Schwartz. Schieffer is a member of The Broadcasting Hall of Fame and in 2009 was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.
H. Andrew Schwartz is chief communications officer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, a 50-year-old bipartisan nonprofit policy research organization.
Kristie Bunton holds a PhD from Indiana University and a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. She is Dean of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University.
Lucy Boyd is on the investigative team at 60 minutes. She covered the 2016 presidential campaign with Schieffer after earning her Masters degree in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy school.
This slim book of 204 pages is published by Rowman and Littlefield.