Journalist Carr’s (A Journal of the Crazy Year, 2013, etc.) accomplished debut novel takes readers into the world of local newsroom politics, rendering that world in elaborate, Dickensian detail.
Here are the petty turf wars over stories and bylines, the venal and greedy ad-people willing to do anything to increase the station’s revenue, the brainless and bullying newsroom bosses whose screw-ups make life miserable for the hardworking writers and reporters. Here are the pompous news-readers enjoying their local celebrity and the real stories reporters have to fight to get told. Arrow Henley, an ace reporter at WDIK-TV’s Action News in Knoxville, Tenn., had been told by his station’s general manager to go get sensational footage of a young man threatening to commit suicide by throwing himself off a bridge. Remembering the assignment sends Henley on a drinking binge, but his dilemma—an old-fashioned, story-oriented newsroom being taken over by ratings-and-numbers-driven mindless media—is shared by all of Carr’s main characters, including Dexter Drimmel, a caustic newsman from WIMP in Little Rock, who’s tired of seeing his station run preprogrammed “content” (bought in two-hour blocks from a West Coast company) rather than actual local news reported by actual local reporters. Reporter Dan Price, whose copy gets rewritten by his overbearing bosses and who dreams of somehow fighting back, feels the same way. These workplace stories are rendered by Carr in such intricate detail and with such smooth skill that readers will easily gain a vivid sense of what it’s like to work in a local newsroom—the technical problems, the industry jargon, the multitude of quick decisions that need to be made every day. Against this backdrop, Carr weaves a theme of corruption that provides most of the book’s considerable comic energy and fast-paced dialogue.
A spirited, lavishly detailed behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a newsroom.