A no-nonsense retort to the notion that we live in a time of abundant information.

A dire warning on the decline of daily newspapers and the danger that their disappearance poses for democracy.

Anybody who follows the media business is familiar with the broad outline of the problem the author lays out in this unapologetically dour book: Newspapers have shuttered with distressing speed in recent years—more than 2,000 since 2004, she reports—and many of the ones that remain are shadows of their former selves. Sullivan, a media columnist at the Washington Post, used to be the top editor at one of those, the Buffalo Evening News, and she shares her own glimpses of the decline. However, the author’s goal isn’t to lament the good old days of once-mighty businesses. Instead, she trains her eyes on the “news deserts” that now litter the landscape and voices concern about how corruption will consume communities that no longer have media watchdogs. For instance, the Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio, used to send reporters to all area school-board meetings, a manager told her, and “people knew that…and they behaved.” But now TV news and online outlets aren’t picking up the slack, and though nonprofit news sources have emerged, they don’t have the reach or stability that newspapers once claimed. Combine that with social media platforms that allow misinformation to spread, and it’s no wonder local civic discourse has degraded into meme-vs.-meme slap fights. (Sullivan is careful to note that this is hardly just an American problem.) What to do? The author chronicles her discussions with the leaders of some promising startups and considers more radical ideas, such as federal subsidies for media. But her glass is resolutely half-empty: She predicts that “American politics will become even more polarized; government and business corruption will flourish, the glue that holds communities together will weaken."

A no-nonsense retort to the notion that we live in a time of abundant information.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73362-378-0

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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