ALMOST GOLDEN: Jessica Savitch and the Selling of Television News by Gwenda Blair
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ALMOST GOLDEN: Jessica Savitch and the Selling of Television News

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Journalist Blair portrays the tragic life, career, and death of NBC correspondent Jessica Savitch against the frenetic backdrop of TV news: through a web of interviews and network history, she depicts Savitch as a helpless mannequin created and destroyed in the race to make TV news a mass-market entertainment. What Savitch considered to be her ""real life"" ended that night in October, 1983, when she faced 15 million viewers and the camera in a Percodan stupor, unable to speak, From that nerve-splintering moment on, the camera magic that had made Savitch a national role model and sex symbol deserted her. Within the year, the 36-year-old media star would die in a freak car accident. As a child, Savitch watched the nightly news with her father. He died when she was 12, and Savitch ever-after felt abandoned; but when she first went on the air at a local radio station in high school, she found something that was stronger for her than love. By the time she entered Ithaca College, she was driven by the ambition to be on TV. She landed a correspondent's job in Houston, becoming the first anchorwoman of the South. An anchor spot in Philadelphia followed, and it was here that her glowingly earnest style took flower (the Eyewitness News style that was to change the look of network news). Her popularity exploded just as ratings-frantic NBC was fishing for female lure: suddenly, at 30, Savitch became a national correspondent. To those outside a cutthroat system, it seemed certain that she would win the coveted main anchor chair on the nightly news. Inside NBC, however, Savitch was known only as a cocaine-addicted shrew with two unhappy marriages and no journalistic skills--she was out in the cold. Don't expect psychological insight. What Blair offers is both more and less than a bio of Savitch: a compelling, thorough, ethical history of network news in which Savitch is a mere stick figure, a jangling mechanical doll, a casualty of a giant system that she gave herself to body and soul. A sad and powerful book.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1988
Publisher: Simon & Schuster