"DOUBLE VISION: Reflections on My Heritage, Life, and Profession" by Ben H. Bagdikian

"DOUBLE VISION: Reflections on My Heritage, Life, and Profession"

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A scattershot recounting of a life spent in journalism, as well as a critique of the way news is gathered and reported. In a career spanning nearly 50 years, Bagdikian (The Media Monopoly, 1983, etc.) has seen a great sea change in the world of journalism as family-owned newspapers peopled with colorful, slightly disreputable characters have yielded to media conglomerates and celebrity journalists. He worked for a number of newspapers, including the Washington Post, played a role in the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, and became one of the nation's first media critics. All this, however, does not ultimately add up to compelling material for an autobiography. And Bagdikian has neither the style nor the storytelling talent to make up for the deficiencies of his raw material. He writes like a reporter, not a memoirist, structuring his account in the classic inverted pyramid style dear to journalists: all the interesting material up front, succeeded by increasingly less interesting details. There are also numerous repetitions as well as strange omissions (whole decades seem to pass almost unmentioned) and frequent chronological leaps. There are some interesting sections on his Armenian roots, especially his family's flight from Turkish massacres. And the fluster and cloak-and-dagger drama surrounding the publication of the Pentagon Papers are well detailed. Bagdikian also offers some trenchant and timely critiques of the Fourth Estate, especially the journalistic pose of objectivity, which pretends that reporters are not uniquely shaped by the circumstances of their lives. The subtext of this book, in fact, is how strongly Bagdikian's life influenced his reporting. Thus in place of objectivity, he proposes a standard of ""fairness and balance,"" reporting that ""concentrates on the fundamentals of social justice in any democracy."" Unfortunately, this is precisely the sort of stolid decency that makes for great obituaries but not great autobiographies.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Beacon