Right in the Old Gazoo: What I Learned in a Lifetime of Meeting the Press

Alan K. Simpson, Author
Alan K. Simpson, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-688-11358-2
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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The tart-tongued Sen. Simpson (R-Wyo.) retires this year after three terms, so this readable mix of memoir and criticism serves as his valedictory. ""[T]he media need to rein themselves in,"" declares this participant in and observer of numerous media controversies. Indeed, Simpson knows that the news business isn't pretty. During his early days in Wyoming, he saw underprepared reporters focus on controversy, not substance. In Washington, the situation has worsened, he says, contending that the media too often dig dirt instead of analyzing national problems. He has had a Washington Post reporter misquote him and refuse to apologize when confronted with a tape. These experiences lead Simpson to propose useful reforms--the press should admit errors, focus on substance, resist off-the-record sources--that recall more thorough journalistic critiques by James Fallows and Howard Kurtz. More controversially, Simpson declares that the landmark 1964 libel case New York Times v. Sullivan ""turned public officials into raw meat,"" and argues that it should be undone. While that proposal is worth debating, other Simpson segments sound merely partisan. He criticizes CNN correspondent Peter Arnett for broadcasting Iraqi propaganda during the Gulf war but declares that the rules for American reporters were reasonable. And he maintains that his statements during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings--""I really am getting stuff over the transom""--were no worse than the media attacks on Thomas. Author tour. (Jan.)
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