cover image Feeding the Beast:: The White House Versus the Press

Feeding the Beast:: The White House Versus the Press

Kenneth T. Walsh. Random House (NY), $25 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44290-5

Despite the title and the book's gloss of press criticism, this is mostly a competent, conventional memoir of the past decade on the White House beat. U.S. News & World Report White House correspondent Walsh declares that the White House and the news media no longer trust each other, thus shortchanging the American public. He cites both manipulative politicos and the rise of journalists' cynicism and television's focus on personality. His anecdotal history of the Reagan, Bush and Clinton years is readable but strains for judgment: Did the run-up to the Gulf War really show the media on two sides, jingoists and antimilitarists? Was the press really unfair to Dan Quayle? Walsh's observations that the White House media focus too much on conflict, are tyrannized by the fast-running news cycle and are isolated from middle America have been made more eloquently in James Fallows's recent Breaking the News. Walsh's prescription, that reporters avoid editorializing or analysis, and that they get outside the Beltway, are only partial solutions. (May)