Roeper isn’t the only journalist edging over the thin yellow line between politics and prose. Francine Prose says when she reviewed the Clinton memoir for Newsday, she knew that “… regardless of the literary merits of the book, the human being that was going to appear from those pages would be superior to the people in the current administration.” According the Jack Shafer’s Slate article about the Clinton reviews, Prose’s “main motivation” was writing about politics.
The Shafer article is fascinating for two reasons. It takes another step in making the process of journalism – or, I suppose, media-making – more transparent. “I read the early chapters on Clinton’s childhood, high school, and Oxford experiences,” Washington Post Op-Ed writer Anne Applebaum told Shafer, “skipped the Arkansas governorship, and went on to the presidency. Then I got stuck.” New York Observer reviewer Robert Sam Anson reportedly “prepped himself for the review by talking to people who’d been read long portions of the book, which gave him a sense of what it contained before he opened it. He then logged 26 straight hours producing his review.” Anson tells Shafer “Did I read the whole thing? No.”
Since the Jayson Blair crisis at NYT, the way the news is made is getting more exposure, which is great. We’re even seeing this extend to scrutiny of how the Iraq war is reported, which is really great.
The other thing the Slate article highlights is the deepening blur between politics, journalism, media and celebrity. “”This wasn’t really a book book,” Anson told Shafer. “This is a political event. …” Movie trailers are under fire for FEC compliance. Bodybuilder superstars win titles like “The People’s Governor.” We’ve come a long way since movies like Dave, where a couple dozen members of the DC political and media elite played themselves in mock-umentary style cameos.
Is it any wonder, when TV stars become CNN anchors and former presidential candidates become TV personalities?