Mencken is supposed to have said that it's a newspaper's job to comfort the afflicted—and to afflict the comfortable. On the dismaying evidence of Underwood's thoughtful survey of the user- friendly pap that now passes for print journalism, the famed editor's sly canon has become a very dead letter. A working reporter for 13 years before he began teaching at the University of Washington, Underwood offers a sobering appraisal of the newspaper business that—if not quite as lively as Howard Kurtz's Media Circus (p. 279)—is appreciably more systematic and better documented. Paying close attention to the influence of a former employer (Gannett and its USA Today) as well as TV, the author focuses on how a new breed of market-minded, profit-oriented executives has changed the face and shoddied the editorial content of newspapers throughout the country. Covered as well is the flashy makeover's impact on newsrooms that once were havens for nonconformist mavericks informed by a love of good writing and an absolute conviction that they were rendering an essential public service. Now, Underwood concludes, only team players willing to see their prose homogenized beyond all individual recognition need apply. In what appears to be triumph of hope over experience, the author closes on an upbeat note, pointing out that newspapers not only meet social and psychic needs but also set the agendas for broadcast media in today's wired-up world. A first-rate critique of the infotainment/customer trap into which commercialism has lured many of the metropolitan dailies owned by conglomerates rather than by proprietors who view their equity as a trust.

Pub Date: June 3, 1993

ISBN: 0-231-08048-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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