POISONING THE PRESS by Mark Feldstein

POISONING THE PRESS

Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture

KIRKUS REVIEW

Award-winning journalist Feldstein (Media and Public Affairs/George Washington Univ.) scrutinizes the clash between Richard Nixon and eagle-eyed, muckraking newspaper columnist Jack Anderson.

The author’s research centers on the incremental contamination of American politics, most notably stemming from within the Nixon administration as reported by Anderson. The two were both born less than 30 miles from each other in Southern California, yet each matured with vastly different demeanors and motivations. Anderson stoked his innately inquisitive, rebellious nature with a successful early career as a foreign war correspondent and then earned his “political education” via relentless derogatory exposés on such scandals as the Howard Hughes loan scandal, the J. Edgar Hoover Mafia connection, Nixon’s Vietnam War obfuscation and Watergate. Locking horns with the hyperdefensive Nixon and playing on his press paranoia proved a bold move since anyone digging into the president’s affairs for the next big news scoop was met with aggressive damage-control tactics. Throughout Nixon’s rise and fall, Anderson participated in a mutually contemptuous—and eventually deadly—game of cat-and-mouse, positioning himself as the administration’s chief whistleblower. As foolproof as his research appeared, Anderson’s dogged reporting also had its flaws. A bold, self-proclaimed “crusader on a mission,” he fumbled often, too often relying on the thrill of the muckraking experience rather than on common sense, which led to a checkered reputation among his media contemporaries. Feldstein deserves high praise for delivering such an exhaustive amount of information with intelligent prose and a lucid point of view. Culled from a wellspring of source materials—including audio transcriptions from the infamous Nixon White House tapes—the author thoroughly examines the often overheated “adversarial relationship between politicians and journalists.” Though his report is comprehensive, Feldstein admits that even more information remains “unknown to the public”—including the redaction by the FBI of 8,000 files regarding Anderson.

Entertaining and enlightening, with lots of fresh reporting for politics buffs.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-374-23530-7
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2010




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