A narrowly focused book that reads smoothly, chronicling a newspaper’s dedication to doing “its job: tell readers about...




A retired journalist from the Riverside (California) Press-Enterprise recounts his publication’s unlikely crusade to open court proceedings to the public; two appeals reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before the 1980s, judges throughout California routinely excluded journalists and citizens from courtrooms during preliminary hearings and jury selection in cases proceeding to trial. Along with most other news organizations, the family-owned Press-Enterprise accepted the restrictions. But three extremely high-profile criminal cases led the owner/publisher and his feisty top editor to challenge judges’ decisions to close their courtrooms during consequential stages of the proceedings. In addition to fully explaining the First Amendment issues at stake, Bernstein (The Tortoise and the Hare Race Again, 2006, etc.) humanizes the narrative by offering extensive portraits of the Press-Enterprise decision-makers, the unlikely lawyers they retained, the local judges involved, and the prosecutors and defense attorneys in the three death penalty cases: a botched bank robbery that ended in a bloody fashion, the rape and murder of a high school girl, and “at least a dozen drug-induced murders of elderly hospital patients by a misguided employee.” The author has clearly conducted prodigious research about the three cases, the local judges and lawyers, the justices serving on the Supreme Court during the 1980s, and the agonizing decision-making inside the Press-Enterprise newsroom. Bernstein longs for an era when a newspaper owner would spend large amounts of money to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court—not once, but twice during the same decade—with no guarantee for any financial return on the investment. Perhaps most enlightening and impressive is the author’s acquisition of notes from the justices and their clerks about the closed-door deliberations leading to favorable decisions about the openness of hearings and jury selections.

A narrowly focused book that reads smoothly, chronicling a newspaper’s dedication to doing “its job: tell readers about shocking crimes in their own backyard.”

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4962-0201-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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