Don't Shoot the Messenger: How Our Growing Hatred of the Media Threatens Free Speech for All of Us

Bruce W. Sanford, Author Free Press $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-82813-8
Sanford assumes the burden of defending the media in this passionate but unfocused analysis of journalism and its discontents. A noted lawyer specializing in media and the First Amendment, Sanford examines how the judicial system, fueled by public sentiment, has slowly withdrawn the First Amendment protections on which serious investigative journalism depends. To illustrate his claim that litigation--or even the threat of it--is muzzling the press, Sanford discusses several recent cases, including the $10 million settlement Chiquita Brands won from the Gannett Co. after the Cincinnati Enquirer, one of Gannett's newspapers, admitted that a reporter had used illegal means to obtain information when writing an article about Chiquita's business practices. The media, Sanford argues, is headed toward self-censorship, which leaves it with nothing to fill the country's pages and airwaves other than the fluff and sensationalism with which the public claims to be fed up. These arguments are persuasive--when they can be found. Unfortunately, Sanford buries his best thinking in a blizzard of tangents and digressions that do little to advance his central concerns. Did he really need a whole chapter on Gary Hart's former ""scandal kitten,"" Donna Rice? It's as if he's written two books: one about why Americans hate the media and another about how the press is acquiescing to the erosion of the First Amendment. Succeeding fully at neither task, he also fails to integrate the two issues into a persuasive commentary on the state of the American media. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999
Release date: 08/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 257 pages - 978-0-7425-0837-8
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