Deciding What’s True

Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism
by Lucas Graves

PN 4784 .O24 G73 2016

“Over the past decade, outlets such as PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker have shaken up the political world by holding public figures accountable for what they say. Deciding What’s True draws on Lucas Graves’s unique access to the U.S. newsrooms leading the increasingly global fact-checking movement. Graves vividly recounts the routines of the journalists at three of these hyperconnected, technologically innovative news organizations. He shows how they tackle thorny political debates and reveals the values that drive their stories. He also plots a compelling, personality-driven history of the fact-checking movement and its recent evolution from the blogosphere, exploring its revolutionary challenge to journalistic ethics and practice.”
– publisher description

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Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown

Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown by Gerri Hirshey

PN 4874 .B768 H57 2016

“When Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl, first appeared in 1962, it whistled into buttoned-down America like a bombshell: Brown declared that it was okay – even imperative – for unmarried women to have and enjoy a sex life, and that equal rights for women should extend to the bedroom and the workplace. “How dare you?” thundered newspapers, radio hosts, and (mostly male) citizens. But more than two million women bought the book and hailed her as a heroine. Brown was also pilloried as a scarlet woman and a traitor to the women’s movement when she took over the failing Hearst magazine Cosmopolitan and turned it into a fizzy pink guidebook for “do-me” feminism. As the first magazine geared to the rising wave of single working women, it sold wildly. Today, more than 68 million young women worldwide are still reading some form of Helen Gurley Brown’s audacious yet comforting brand of self-help.

“HGB” wasn’t the ideal poster girl for second-wave feminism, but she certainly started the conversation. Brown campaigned for women’s reproductive freedom and advocated skill and “brazenry” both on the job and in the boudoir – along with serial plastic surgery. When she died in 2012, her front-page obituary in The New York Times noted that though she succumbed at ninety, “parts of her were considerably younger.”

Her life story is astonishing, from her roots in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, to her single-girl decade as a Mad Men-era copywriter in Los Angeles, which informed her first bestseller, to her years at the helm of Cosmopolitan. Helen Gurley Brown told her own story many times, but coyly, with plenty of camouflage. Here, for the first time, is the unvarnished and decoded truth about “how she did it” – from her comet-like career to “bagging” her husband of half a century, the movie producer David Brown.

Full of firsthand accounts of HGB from many of her closest friends and rediscovered, little-known interviews with the woman herself, Gerri Hirshey’s Not Pretty Enough is a vital biography that shines new light on the life of one of the most vibrant, vexing, and indelible women of the twentieth century.”
– publisher description

The News Sorority

The News Sorority

The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller

PN 4872 .W42 2014

“For decades, women battered the walls of the male fortress of television journalism. After fierce struggles, three women – Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour – broke into the newsroom’s once impenetrable “boys’ club.” These extraordinary women were not simply pathbreakers, but wildly gifted journalists whose unique talents – courage and empathy, competitive drive and strategic poise – enabled them to climb to the top of the corporate ladder and transform the way Americans received their news.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with their colleagues and intimates from childhood on, The News Sorority crafts a lively and exhilarating narrative that reveals the hard struggles and inner strengths that shaped these women and powered their success. Life outside the newsroom – love, loss, child rearing – would mark them all, complicating their lives even as it deepened their convictions and instincts. Life inside the newsroom would include many nervy decisions and back room power plays previously uncaptured in any media account. Taken together, Sawyer’s, Couric’s, and Amanpour’s lives as women are here revealed not as impediments but as keys to their success.

Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Diane Sawyer was a young woman steering her own unique political course in a time of societal upheaval. Her fierce intellect, almost insuperable work ethic, and sophisticated emotional intelligence would catapult Sawyer from being the first female on-air correspondent for 60 Minutes, to early on interviewing the likes of Boris Yeltsin and Michael Jackson, to presenting heartbreaking specials on child poverty in America while anchoring the network flagship ABC World News. From her first breaks as a reporter all the way through her departure in 2014, Sawyer’s charisma and drive would carry her through countless personal and professional changes.

Katie Couric, always conveniently underestimated because of her “girl-next-door” demeanor, brazened her way through a succession of regional TV news jobs until she finally hit it big. In 1991, Couric became the tremendously popular cohost of Today, where, over the next fifteen years, she transformed the “female” slot from secondary to preeminent while shouldering devastating personal loss and launching an audacious and lifesaving public health campaign. Couric’s greatest triumph – and most bedeviling challenge – was inheriting the mantle of Walter Cronkite at CBS Evening News, as the first woman to solo-anchor a prestigious nighttime network news program. Through it all, her contradictions – she’s wry and sarcastic yet sensitive; seriously feminist while proudly sorority-girlish – made her beyond easy typecasting, and as original as she is relatable.

A glamorous, unorthodox cosmopolite – the daughter of a British Catholic mother and an Iranian Muslim father, raised in pre-revolution Iran amid royalty and educated in England – Christiane Amanpour was an elite, wily, charismatic convent-school girl who would never have been picked out of a lineup as a future war reporter, until her character flourished on catastrophic soil: her family’s exile during the Iranian Revolution. Once she knew her calling, Amanpour shrewdly made a virtue of her outsider status, joining the fledgling CNN on the bottom rung and then becoming its “face,” catalyzing it rise to global prominence. Amanpour’s fearlessness in war zones, and before presidents and despots, would maker the world’s witness to some of its most acute crises and television’s chief advocate for international justice.

Revealing the tremendous combination of ambition, empathy, and skill that empowered Sawyer, Couric, and Amanpour to reach stardom, The News Sorority is at once a detailed story of three very particular lives and a testament to the extraordinary character of women everywhere.”
– publisher description

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI

The Burglary

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger

HV 8144 .F43 M43 2014

“The never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists – quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans – that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, his own shadow Bureau of Investigation.

It begins in 1971 back in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War . . . A small group of activists – eight men and women – the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan’s rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land.

The would-be burglars – nonpro’s – were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist; a lock picker; a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule.

Betty Medsger’s extraordinary book re-creates in resonant detail how this group of unknowing thieves, in their meticulous planning of the burglary, scouted out the low-security FBI building in a small town just west of Philadelphia, taking into consideration every possible factor, and how they planned the break-in for the night of the long-anticipated boxing match between Joe Frazier (war supporter and friend to President Nixon) and Muhammad Ali (convicted for refusing to serve in the military), knowing that all would be fixated on their televisions and radios.

Medsger writes that the burglars removed all of the FBI files and, with the utmost deliberation, released them to various journalists and members of Congress, soon upending the public’s perception of the inviolate head of the Bureau and paving the way for the first overhaul of the FBI since Hoover became its director in 1924. And we see how the release of the FBI files to the press set the stage for the sensational release three months later, by Daniel Ellsberg, of the top-secret, seven-thousand-page Pentagon study on U.S. decision-making regarding the Vietnam War, which became known as the Pentagon Papers.

At the heart of the heist – and the book – the contents of the FBI files revealing J. Edgar Hoover’s “secret counterintelligence program” COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States in order “to enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles,” to make clear to all Americans that an FBI agent was “behind every mailbox,” a plan that would discredit, destabilize, and demoralize groups, many of them legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups that Hoover found offensive – as well as black power groups, student activists, antidraft protestors, conscientious objectors.

The author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post and continued her investigation long after she’d left the paper, figuring out who the burglars were, and convincing them, after decades of silence, to come forward and tell their extraordinary story.

The Burglary is an important and riveting book, a portrait of the potential power of nonviolent resistance and the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.” – publisher description

Five Days at Memorial

Five Days at Memorial

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

RA 975 .D57 F56 2013

“In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.

After Katrina struck and the flood-waters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing. In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are in America for the impact of large-scale disasters – and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.” – publisher description

Undercover Reporting: The Truth About Deception

Undercover Reporting

Undercover Reporting: The Truth About Deception by Brooke Kroeger

PN 4888 .I56 K76 2012

“In her provocative book, Brooke Kroeger argues for a reconsideration of the place of oft-maligned journalistic practices. While it may seem paradoxical, much of the valuable journalism in the past century and a half has emerged from undercover investigations that employed subterfuge or deception to expose wrong. Kroeger asserts that undercover work is not a separate world, but rather that it embodies a central discipline of good reporting – the ability to extract significant information or to create indelible, real-time descriptions of hard-to-penetrate institutions or social situations that deserve the public’s attention. Undercover Reporting serves as a rallying call for an endangered aspect of the journalistic endeavor.” – publisher description