Working in a newsroom is not as glamorous or exciting as most people imagine.
In fact, it can be downright boring. Just ask the staff at The Best in the West, a small-market Arizona television station where anchors Jean Ann Maypin and Tom Carter mindlessly read a teleprompter several times a night and periodically cut to local reporters Ellen Peters and Frank Kowalski. On slow news days, the journalists report on PTA meetings, social functions, and government wrangling. It can be pretty ho-hum, but every so often they get to cover a more significant issue—a uranium spill at a remote mine, a health crisis among Native Americans, the spike in homelessness. You’d think that this would impress the station’s New York City–based owners and encourage them to devote additional resources to investigative stories, but you'd be wrong. The bosses’ interests are strictly financial: profits and ratings are all that matter. Though this likely sounds like a contemporary tale, it's set in the late 1970s, long before there was an expectation of political correctness in the workplace; explicit racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic comments are newsroom staples. This shocks Debbie Hanson, a young and enthusiastic recent hire. As Ellen takes the newcomer under her wing, she discovers that her protégée has periods of mental instability. This provokes constant speculation among Debbie’s co-workers and leaves the young reporter feeling increasingly isolated and pressured. Unfortunately, although the novel raises important political concerns, the newsroom staffers are too clichéd to resonate as real people. Likewise, the money-hungry station owners and narcissistic anchors are so one-dimensional that they read like caricatures. At the same time, anyone doubting that we’ve made progress over the past 40 years need only read this to be reassured.
A fast-paced, but familiar, story of a bygone era.