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GHOSTING THE NEWS

LOCAL JOURNALISM AND THE CRISIS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

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

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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