A troubling look inside an enterprise as vicious and internecine as a soap opera.

TOP OF THE MORNING

INSIDE THE CUTTHROAT WORLD OF MORNING TV

A chronicle of the recent nasty struggles within and between Today and Good Morning America.

When New York Times media reporter journalist Stelter began his research, Today was nearing the end of its incredible run of well over 800 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 morning talk/news show. By the end, GMA had toppled Today, a show that one waggish GMA staffer quipped should be renamed Yesterday. The story commences with the decision of producer Jim Bell to remove struggling co-host Ann Curry from Today. As that story unfolds, Stelter periodically returns us to the earliest days of Today (1952: with Dave Garroway and chimp J. Fred Muggs) and to the beginnings of GMA in 1975. We learn about most of the previous hosts, the struggles within GMA to find an identity and the arrogance of Today’s production team—the we’ll-always-be-No. 1 mentality. Stelter also visits the histories of the CBS entry (never a threat—not so far) and to MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which the author clearly likes. But the focus throughout is on this past year: Matt Lauer’s gifts (and contracts), Curry’s problems with informal chitchat, Robin Roberts’ battles with cancer (struggles that ABC milked for ratings), the supreme talents of Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira, and the arrival of the talented Savannah Guthrie and its failure to stem the GMA tide. By the end, Bell is out as Today producer, GMA seems firmly in charge of the No. 1 spot, George Stephanopoulos and the GMA crew are all but singing “We Are Family,” Lauer is suffering from attacks on social media, and Today is hiring “branding” consultants to see what they can do about their fall from the top spot.

A troubling look inside an enterprise as vicious and internecine as a soap opera.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4555-1287-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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