In a book whose conclusions will be debated, Kennedy rightly suggests that quality journalism is not only salvageable, but...

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THE RETURN OF THE MOGULS

HOW JEFF BEZOS AND JOHN HENRY ARE REMAKING NEWSPAPERS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A veteran media critic finds signs of hope as civic-minded billionaires do their best to revive newspapers.

Though the subtitle only mentions two moguls, the analysis devotes equal attention to three. Kennedy (Journalism/Northeastern Univ.; The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post-Newspaper Age, 2013) has been developing sources since he was a media watchdog for the alt-weekly Boston Phoenix, now defunct, and he knows that much conventional wisdom concerning the plight of newspapers misses the mark. He debunks the notion that newspapers were late to the internet game, showing just how early the leading ones jumped onboard. The problem is that newspaper sites offered content for free while charging for print. This wasn’t an issue when sites were so slow to load and few readers were accessing the internet for news, but it has since resulted in a broken business model, particularly since advertisers have fled print for the web, and the classifieds have largely gone to Craigslist. Though “moguls” often carries a negative connotation, Kennedy understands how publically traded corporations have decimated their newsrooms in the chase for profits, and many welcome the wealth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry as they try to keep the newspapers they bought (the Washington Post and Boston Globe respectively) afloat. As a cautionary tale, the author offers Aaron Kushner and the Orange County Register, which he attempted to revive with an emphasis on print but whose accelerated timetable showed how much more difficult the challenge can be with a comparative lack of resources. The answer, Kennedy suggests, lies not merely in moguls, but in the right moguls, ones who are committed to quality journalism as the key ingredient and who recognize that necessary risks might lead to costly mistakes. Though Bezos refused to make himself available, the author sees him as someone doing things right for the right reasons—an assertion sure to meet with rigorous arguments.

In a book whose conclusions will be debated, Kennedy rightly suggests that quality journalism is not only salvageable, but necessary.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61168-594-7

Page Count: 296

Publisher: ForeEdge/Univ. Press of New England

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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