Gray, James, The Quill
'Trivia Pursuit' offers lots of criticism but provides few fresh ideas. By James Gray
With the turn of each page of Knowlton Nash's "Trivia Pursuit - How Showbiz Values Are Corrupting the News," I had a recurring thought: Tell me something I don't already know.
This book was written for a Canadian audience, so maybe show business corruption of the news is something our neighbors to the north may not be aware of One thing is certain, though. This book, brief as it is, isn't an easy read. While Nash falls just short of presenting us with nine chapters of pedantry, he does make a number of relevant and heedworthy points about the state of journalism.
Perusing one of the SPJ list-serves recently, there was a flurry of activity when word came that publicists for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman would grant interviews only to those reporters who agreed to sign a paper promising to write or say only positive things about the couple and their latest oeuvre, "Eyes Wide Shut.' That this incident is true and that scores of our brethren dutifully signed is the sort of fodder Nash found no difficulty in collecting.
For me, the most interesting chapter is, "The Three Walters," where Nash points out that Lippmann, Winchell and Cronkite collectively and arguably had the most lasting effect on journalism and news coverage in this century.
That's a statement I'd have difficulty refuting. And that's nearly the only original theory I could find in this book.
Throughout this book, I couldn't help but think that Nash must have had a most unpleasant experience with Rupert Murdoch. He regularly points to the tabloid products Murdoch publishes as the most representative of sleaze and showbiz influence that colors so much of news coverage today.
Nevertheless, Nash's oft-repeated points about the drivel too many of us accept as "news" are well-taken. Citing the proliferation of internet sites that purport to be authoritative, objective and ethical, Nash reminds us that nearly anyone with access to a PC and a modem can claim to be a journalist and proffer garbage as fact. Not surprisingly, many of us may be pointing and clicking our way to being dumbed-down because of the ubiquity and ease of internet-connected computers. …