Feeding the beast: the White House versus the press

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Random House, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 340 pages
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Avoiding single-minded laments on the shortcomings of the presidency or the failings of the press,Feeding the Beastis an evenhanded though often damning critique of the relationship between the White House and the news media, a relationship that can create more problems that it solves. For an informed electorate and an enlightened citizenry, few institutions are more important than the presidency and the mainstream media, and here Kenneth T. Walsh, a senior White House correspondent forU.S. News & World Report, candidly reports how ordinary citizens are the biggest losers in the current state of affairs. The widespread practice of "spin doctoring," the willingness on the part of the White House to mislead the press, overly interpretive reporting, and "gotcha" journalism do more to distort reality than illuminate it. Walsh chronicles a passing parade of fascinating characters that have shaped our times and influenced our lives, while at the same time pulling back the curtain and laying bare many commonly held illusions. The connection between the White House and the press corps works well when the people involved interact well, and in shedding light on some of those relationships, Walsh relates his afternoon of pitching horseshoes with George Bush; Dan Quayle's previously undisclosed MTV gambit; and what it's like to interview Bill and Hillary Clinton; and he explains in fresh detail the ways Ronald Reagan was able to choreograph his presidency. Starting with George Washington, Walsh shows how Presidents and presidential candidates have repeated the same mistakes in dealing with the press from the beginning of the Republic. As the national media have grown over time into a voracious beast demanding to be fed, they have lost sight of their fundamental mission of presenting the world in a straightforward and comprehensible way to viewers, listeners, and readers. Too often, Walsh asserts, the press suffers from four basic flaws: injecting too much attitude into stories, assuming an overly negative approach to all news, rushing to judgment, and ignoring the values of Middle America. Walsh is able not only to point out the chronic problems, but also to examine how this crucial nexus for an involved electorate has become so contaminated that ordinary citizens no longer trust either the media or their elected officials. This keenly observed book, full of humorous and horrific inside stories, will spark debate inside and outside the Beltway about the government and the fourth estate and will force readers to examine who, if anyone, is being served by the current antagonism.

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Feeding the beast: the White House versus the press

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That serious conflict exists between government and news media is not a new idea; it has generated numeous books, scholarly studies, essays, and editorials in recent years. What distinguishes this ... Read full review

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About the author (1996)

Kenneth T. Walsh has covered the presidency for U.S. News & World Report since 1986.  He is the winner of the two most prestigious awards for covering the White House, the Aldo Beckman Award and the Gerald R. Ford Prize, and is the former president of the White House Correspondents' Association.  He is an adjunct professor of communication at the American University in Washington.  Mr. Walsh lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife, Barclay. He is currently working on the biography of Ronald Reagan which will be one title in the  A&E Biography Book Series, due out in Spring '97, from Park Lane Press, a division of Random House Value Publishing, Inc., a Random House Company.