The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media


Don’t let the cute cartoon image of Ms. Gladstone fool you.  This is a serious topic told in a very accessible way.  It’s a fascinating look at how journalism has evolved,  how certain practices started and how certain mistakes are made time and time again, all in the name of democracy and freedom.

While she does hold herself and other journalists accountable, she points out that we as information consumers also have the responsibility to be open to hear from both sides.

She does recognize that there are challenges.

“Objectivity is essential.  Objectivity is impossible.”

And she’s right.  I do read my local paper, I listen to NPR, I read The New York Times and The New Yorker.  I watch the local news, I watch The Daily Show, and if I have time, I’ll even watch clips on I will not watch Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck.  It just makes me angry.

As I was reading this book, I was reminded of what Jon Stewart said in his interview on NPR about the media’s responsibility:

“I think we always have to remember that people can be opponents but not enemies.  And there are enemies in the world.  We just need the news media to help us delineate.  And I think that’s where the failing it.  That the culture of corruption that exists in the media doesn’t allow us to delineate between enemies and opponents and that’s where we sort of fall into trouble.”

If the news media can’t do it for us, we have to be committed to sorting through the crap to get to the truth.

I love books like this because it is so deceptively simple.  The artwork captures moments in history, people, places, and things, but it also successfully illustrates abstract ideas, which is not an easy thing to do.  The content is deep and thought provoking.  It felt honest but not accusatory.  She shows how deeply rooted some of these problems are and how no one person is at fault.

I believe that a good book does not satisfy you.  It makes you hungry for more.  It took me all day to get through the 156 pages because I kept stopping to look things up.   Like The New Yorker issue from August 1946 that she mentions.  Other than the ads, the entire issue is an article on Hiroshima.  My husband had gotten me the archives on CD so I immediately looked it up to read later.  And that is what I am going to do now because even if history is constantly being edited and modified, it’s important never to forget.

Back Again

It’s been over 6 months since my last entry.  In that time, I suffered another loss, finished another 2 quarters of grad school, read a lot of good books, got through another year of work after they cut half of our staff (essentially doubling our work load) and somehow managed to come out of it still sane.  Mostly.  Maybe a little more jaded and angry but I can still laugh most days so I consider that a good thing.

Now about those books …