My Takeaways From The Book Stonewalled
You don't need me to tell you that today the news media is as much about the story as what they are covering. If you're like me you'd rather not hear about reporters and networks being the top story, rather what's actually going on in the world. Where we may hear a digested, front-end view of their involvement in the story, rarely do we get an insider's view of what's really going on behind the sense in newsrooms or how someone is being impacted, especially when they're being impacted negatively.
As someone who doesn't have cable TV or an antenna and haven't for a very long time I almost never watch the network news or major cable news networks. Instead my news comes from online, reading news Web sites, subscribe to their RSS feeds and following their Twitter accounts. In addition to this, I follow many individual reporters, reading not only what they are posting as new stories but their own Twitter timelines. Where this aggregation of information of information is probably more comprehensive and time consuming than simply “watching the news,”, but it allows me to come to my own informed consensus of what’s going on.
Among the reporters I follow is Sharyl Attkisson, a national investigative reporter who is the host of Full Measure and author of the book The Smear which I recently read and shared my takeaways from. As I have been following her and her reporting for several years, I was drawn to read her most recent book, as well as her first book, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington, where she chronicles covering news events in Washington, and believed political forces worked against her, even hacking into her computers.
Though I read Stonewalled before I read The Smear, I still recall well the takeaways and questions I had from this book.
The “making of the sausage” that is network news – If you think about it, there is very little network news available to be watched. A 30-minute newscast is really only 23 minutes of programming and 7 minutes of commercials. In this time only so many stories can be covered and only to a certain depth. This is also costly in reporter-power plus research. Even the 27/7 news channels don’t cover all that much news as compared to opinion programming.
In Stonewalled, Attkisson states that this plays into whether stories are aired or not. As well, it can be up to the news anchor themselves what gets aired. If that person has a bias, stories may never get seen by the viewing public. She details many cases of this during her years at CBS News.
Overflow news stories on the Web – When some of Attkisson’s news reports were not aired on the evening news program, they were often posted to CBS News’ Web site. I personally had no idea this happened; my assumption was that stories on the Web site were simply what aired. As a result, I have added news Web sites to the mix of news sources I mentioned above to gather all points of view, think for myself and form my own opinion on events around the corner and around the world.
Did the government really hack into her computers? As of this writing and for over 10 years, Attkisson has been trying to get information from the government on what she suspects and was confirmed by her informants, that employees of an unknown part of the US government hacked into her personal and work computers. Why? She suspects her persistent coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal and other government investigative reporting may have led to this. And to date, she has yet to get any official answers.
Stonewalled is a well-written journey through the life in the US capital area, complete with shadowy figures as well as those operating in broad daylight. I highly recommend it as a compliment to what was observed in the news over the last decade. As I finished reading this a while ago, I also promised it to someone a long time ago, and finally the book is in the mail.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
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