SOFT NEWS by Penny Fletcher


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Three reporters risk their lives to uncover a conspiracy to control the news.

Jack Jackson knows he’s one of an increasingly endangered breed in the news industry. Every time he finds himself dashing to the scene of an abortion-clinic bombing or some other calamity, only to realize that he’s the lone reporter there, he’s reminded of what’s become of the corporate media. He feels increasingly like an ad copywriter or publicist, churning out feel-good fluff. The higher-ups insist that consumers want to be entertained, and that if they don’t give people what they want, they’ll go somewhere else for their “news.” Jackson expects that Marcus Media’s acquisition of his paper will bring more of the same, until he notices strange things happening among his colleagues, and his boss orders him to attend a seminar at the company’s Editorial Theology Center. While he’s at the Center, his wife and fellow journalist Chick Carr and Hal Chambers, a freelance reporter, worry about his safety and dig for information on the buyout. The corporate executives–who take direct orders from the Germans owners of Marcus Media and its parent company Roswell Enterprises–are well aware of the mysterious Herr Keisling’s plans to control society through the media, using subliminal messages and other mind-control techniques. Still, even they don’t know, or choose not to guess, who they’re really working for. Fletcher (An Editor’s Guide to Perfect Press Releases, 2004, etc.), a veteran journalist, takes readers on a wild and engrossing ride, buttressed by extensive knowledge of the media industry. Through her three intrepid protagonists’ journeys, the author makes her point about the importance of the news media in a free society, and the ease with which the public can be manipulated into ceding power to authority. Still, Fletcher undermines her concern about these issues by tying them to a premise that’s thoroughly improbable, despite its historical relevance.

A promising story about the control of information that doesn’t totally deliver.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4196-8568-2
Program: Kirkus Indie
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