New Books on Journalism Are Worthy of Public Review

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Two new books on the news business are worth your attention.

Bias, by former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg, has been on the best-seller list. It's an easy read and is highlighted by the anger and indignation of a reporter scorned.

The News About the News, by two Washington Post editors, is deeper, more sophisticated and less emotional.

Goldberg spends little space on political bias, saying most reporters are too competitive to let personal beliefs stand in the way of a good story. The bias he sees is social and cultural. The major media report on certain subjects from a liberal point of view, he writes, such as AIDs, homelessness, women's issues, abortion, gun control and the death penalty.

Goldberg's real enemies are the "powerful, arrogant, thin-skinned" celebrity journalists and media elite of New York City and Washington, D.C. And national TV reporters, as a group, are lazy, Goldberg writes.

"Anchormen in general don't do well with criticism," he writes. "They're like royalty ... after a while they behave more like kings than journalists."

While Goldberg lambasts his former employer, Leonard Downie and Robert Kaiser are uncritical of their current employers, The Washington Post. But the issues they address are broader than Goldberg's.

For instance, they contend that Wall Street's pressures for higher profit margins for media companies are threatening the quality of journalism. Smaller staffs. Less news space. Less aggressive coverage. It's much easier to write soft features and cover celebrities on a tight budget than spend months on investigations.

Downie and Kaiser see the Sept. 11 tragedy as a wake-up call, a chance to rescue journalism from "news as noise, news as wallpaper, news as spectacle. …