A few months ago, I wrote a post on Marvin Kalb’s The Nixon Memo, about how Richard Nixon, well after his resignation as president, tried (pretty successfully) to reinvent himself as a foreign policy gray-beard, and how he used the media to help him reach his goal, the media benefitting at the same time.
Kalb wrote another book, One Scandalous Story, about Bill Clinton and his lady-friends, including Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, and how the media reacted to the Lewinsky story, having the background of his various Arkansas liaisons. How the media decided what was newsworthy, what was sufficiently sourced, etc., and how the new Internet, and in particular Matt Drudge, entered the picture.
The second book, like the first, is fascinating, and provides interesting and important insights as to how newspapers (for that is media he is discussing) approach obviously interesting, obviously important, and obviously sensitive, issues. I recommend both books highly.
Along similar lines, we heard Ron Suskind talk about his newest book, Way of the World, tonight. Suskind is an investigative journalist by background, and his comments on how he used background sources, and open sources, was very informative. His approach is to be very detailed oriented, but to go to background sources and learn the entire story, before approaching anyone who might speak on the record (thus shielding the participant from being the person who broke the story to Suskind). As to the background sources, he tells each that he is prepared to go to prison to protect and shield their identity. And he probably means it.
Substance and facts are important (and usually very frightening), but process equally so.