ATTACK POODLES AND OTHER MEDIA MUTANTS: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror

James Wolcott, Author . Miramax $22.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4013-5212-7

From cultural critic Wolcott (Vanity Fair ; the New Yorker ) comes an examination of the "infotainment" that he says now passes for political news. In an age brimming with 24-hour news channels, talk radio and the Internet, how is it, Wolcott asks, that Americans seem to be less informed than in the past? He points a finger at the rise of TV news personalities, or the "attack poodles," those ratings-hungry pundits, who, he says, are geared more toward quips, rants, profits and fame than to informing a democratic populace. Wolcott finds examples of the specimen in Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Chris Matthews, Dennis Miller and Bob Novak. Beneath Wolcott's humor and catchy prose, however, lurk some dark revelations, such as a Fox news staffer's claim that he and his colleagues are instructed to seek out stories that "cater to angry, middle-aged white men who listen to talk-radio and yell at their televisions." That strategy quickly took Fox News to the top of the heap and has left the other networks in a dizzying game of catchup that has set what Wolcott sees as a dismal, fractious tone for our national discourse. Intelligent, amusing and insightful, Wolcott's effort is still unlikely to approach sales anywhere close to those of books published recently by some of the "attack poodles" he criticizes. Agent, Elyse Cheney. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/26/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-56511-865-2
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