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A report on the disruption of the news media over the last decade. With the guidance of former Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson, we follow two legacy (The New York Times and The Washington Post) and two upstart (BuzzFeed and VICE) companies as they plow through a revolution in technology, economics, standards, commitment, and endurance that pits old vs. A report on the disruption of the news media over the last decade. With the guidance of former Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson, we follow two legacy (The New York Times and The Washington Post) and two upstart (BuzzFeed and VICE) companies as they plow through a revolution in technology, economics, standards, commitment, and endurance that pits old vs. new media. Merchants of Truth is the groundbreaking and gripping story of the precarious state of the news business told by one of our most eminent journalists. Jill Abramson follows four companies: The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and VICE Media over a decade of disruption and radical adjustment. The new digital reality nearly kills two venerable newspapers with an aging readership while creating two media behemoths with a ballooning and fickle audience of millennials. We get to know the defenders of the legacy presses as well as the outsized characters who are creating the new speed-driven media competitors. The players include Jeff Bezos and Marty Baron (The Washington Post), Arthur Sulzberger and Dean Baquet (The New York Times), Jonah Peretti (BuzzFeed), and Shane Smith (VICE) as well as their reporters and anxious readers. Merchants of Truth raises crucial questions that concern the well-being of our society. We are facing a crisis in trust that threatens the free press. Abramson’s book points us to the future.


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A report on the disruption of the news media over the last decade. With the guidance of former Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson, we follow two legacy (The New York Times and The Washington Post) and two upstart (BuzzFeed and VICE) companies as they plow through a revolution in technology, economics, standards, commitment, and endurance that pits old vs. A report on the disruption of the news media over the last decade. With the guidance of former Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson, we follow two legacy (The New York Times and The Washington Post) and two upstart (BuzzFeed and VICE) companies as they plow through a revolution in technology, economics, standards, commitment, and endurance that pits old vs. new media. Merchants of Truth is the groundbreaking and gripping story of the precarious state of the news business told by one of our most eminent journalists. Jill Abramson follows four companies: The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and VICE Media over a decade of disruption and radical adjustment. The new digital reality nearly kills two venerable newspapers with an aging readership while creating two media behemoths with a ballooning and fickle audience of millennials. We get to know the defenders of the legacy presses as well as the outsized characters who are creating the new speed-driven media competitors. The players include Jeff Bezos and Marty Baron (The Washington Post), Arthur Sulzberger and Dean Baquet (The New York Times), Jonah Peretti (BuzzFeed), and Shane Smith (VICE) as well as their reporters and anxious readers. Merchants of Truth raises crucial questions that concern the well-being of our society. We are facing a crisis in trust that threatens the free press. Abramson’s book points us to the future.

30 review for Merchants of Truth: The Business of Facts and The Future of News

  1. 4 out of 5

    Otis Chandler

    Fascinating telling of the last 20 years of the journalism industry, through in depth looks at four companies: The New York Times, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vice. I knew a lot of this having followed and worked on some of it (eg social media rise), but I still learned some things that made the book worth it. I also didn't agree with the way she characterized some of the things I knew about. The story of the news industry in the last twenty years, is one of managed decline. The Posts reve Fascinating telling of the last 20 years of the journalism industry, through in depth looks at four companies: The New York Times, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vice. I knew a lot of this having followed and worked on some of it (eg social media rise), but I still learned some things that made the book worth it. I also didn't agree with the way she characterized some of the things I knew about. The story of the news industry in the last twenty years, is one of managed decline. The Posts revenue was ~30% of what it had been when Jeff Bezos purchased it, and their newsroom had shrunk by almost half. Similar trend for the Times. Print circulation provided all the revenue but it was declining, digital was growing but providing no revenue, and classified advertising, which used to account for ~40% of revenue, was taken almost entirely out by Craigslist, Monster.com and the internet. Shrinkage led to a shortage of young people working there, and a lack of a culture of innovation. In recent years, the Times, Post, WSJ, and others have finally figured out how to embrace digital and make digital subscriptions work. Maybe people just needed a decade or two before they were willing to pay for online content, or maybe the publishers could have innovated faster, it's a very interesting question - but I tend to think innovation could have been much faster (but not overnight). But as of mid 2020, the NYT has 6 million subscribers, who provide 64% of their revenue. One of the themes the book talks about a lot is the separation between church and state in a newspaper - the notion that advertisers should have zero influence over what journalists write or cover. Church and state have been separated for a long time for a good reason - if they aren't, the truth can be hidden by paying money. But the declining legacy print business and the loss of classified meant better online advertising needed to be figured out to save the papers. And upstarts like BuzzFeed and Vice led the charge in figuring out what it looked like - basically an in house ad agency that produced fully native advertising. These articles, which were paid for and thus positive, were mostly clearly marked but not in obvious ways. Church and state got intermixed, and the result at Vice and BuzzFeed has been that advertisers can control content. Less so at NYT/Post, but still a tension that you have to believe influences things. But the biggest issue is that with online, we have ability to measure clicks, and clicks mean pageviews which mean ad dollars. So now we live in a world where editors value content that generates clicks, and a scoreboard can be created. Impressively, at Buzzfeed salaries were tied to how many clicks a writers pieces generated. And while the editors at the Times knew that human judgement mattered more as to what news people should know, even there clicks started to rule the day. "Although the editors reassured the troops that they were not engaged in “an arms race for page views,” a number of journalists believed all of these changes were dumbing down the paper and that editors were too focused on how many clicks stories got. Unlike the Post, the Times did not have screens displaying the constantly changing popularity data, although the homepage showed which stories were trending." If even the NYT falls to clicks, and BuzzFeed/Vice/HuffPo/etc are all about clicks, this leads us to content that is good at getting clicks. More specifically, content that plays on our emotions, usually fear, anger, outrage. Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now talked about this trend. And then things like this can happen, where someone good at making clicks comes along: "All told during this period, Trump received $3 billion worth of free media coverage." And this: "In just six days, the New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all the policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.” Cable and the networks, as they had for decades, followed the Times’s lead." I think clicks are the wrong metric. And optimizing for that metric has led our media industry astray. You combine that with a publishing industry that is cutting costs and thus not innovating as well as having to cut quality checks, and it explains a bit why the media is now so polarized and not as trusted as "the newspaper of record" should be. And it's not just clicks, social media engagement is not the right metric either: "In published rankings of what news sources people found most engaging, none of the four companies that were featured in this book appeared at the top. The metrics company, which measured news outlets by likes, comments, reactions, and shares, ranked Fox News in first place in April 2018, with more than 30 million engagements. London’s Daily Mail rose to fourth from seventh, and a site called Daily Wire, which specialized in conservative news, climbed to eighth with 14 million engagements." Side note on Vice - I must have not been in the target audience for them, and while I know I have occasionally read things on their website, I was wholly ignorant of their story, or the fact that they had and have a big video arm on YouTube and HBO - I don't think I've ever seen any of their videos! I guess I was never counter-culture... but I was glad to learn their story. Side note - the author Jill Abramson was accused of lifting some of her passages from magazine articles about Vice/Buzzfeed/etc, and not crediting the original source. It looks like this is true for a few paragraphs at least, but the overall narrative constructed is not plagiarized, so I don't think this is a big deal at all in whether or not to read or trust this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    Jill Abramson, or her assistant who probably wrote most of the book, examines the bowels of media management-coverage, a worthy topic, which engages many GRs, and why not? The problem, given my rapacious scrutiny, is that far too much of her cultivated "research" is swiped from other writers in other publications : ethics and accuracy be damned. The insulted lady, a fired NYT editor, now teaches at Harvard. Something is very cockeyed with this picture. Jill Abramson, or her assistant who probably wrote most of the book, examines the bowels of media management-coverage, a worthy topic, which engages many GRs, and why not? The problem, given my rapacious scrutiny, is that far too much of her cultivated "research" is swiped from other writers in other publications : ethics and accuracy be damned. The insulted lady, a fired NYT editor, now teaches at Harvard. Something is very cockeyed with this picture.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sonya Dutta Choudhury

    There is a scandal around this book. But here's why you should read it anyway - Author Abramson tells the inside stories of the NY Times & the Washington Post, Buzzfeed & Vice. How Pulitzer prizes stories are reported , how viral videos are made, news scoops , business troubles , Jeff Bezos buying the Post, even her personal story of being fired by the Times, it's all here. Also insights about how to succeed in media, how to use data analytics, how to make peace with sponsored content and how to There is a scandal around this book. But here's why you should read it anyway - Author Abramson tells the inside stories of the NY Times & the Washington Post, Buzzfeed & Vice. How Pulitzer prizes stories are reported , how viral videos are made, news scoops , business troubles , Jeff Bezos buying the Post, even her personal story of being fired by the Times, it's all here. Also insights about how to succeed in media, how to use data analytics, how to make peace with sponsored content and how to look out for fake news. It's a insiders look at how news has changed, and I was absolutely hooked by the book. But the scandal that exploded online , soon after the book released last month, was that Abramson committed the same crime she trashes BuzzFeed & Vice for - she plagiarised some descriptions in the book. She used sources like Timeout New york & The New Yorker without attribution. Journalists are up in arms against this former NY Times editor, who now teaches journalism at Harvard. It is ironical that Jill Abramson herself has fallen prey to the same compulsions of speed and sloppiness, that she blames new age media for. I'd still root for the book - for its wealth of stories and insights. And check out the controversy on social media to figure which way you stand.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mónica BQ

    Hmmmmmmm "*All three* chapters on Vice were clotted with mistakes. Lots of them. The truth promised in Merchants of Truth was often not true. While trying to corroborate certain claims, I noticed that it also contained...plagiarized passages." From Michael C. Moynihan's Twitter. Read the full thread. "THREAD: Jill Abramson plagiarized me at least seven times in her new book, Merchants of Truth." From Ian Frisch's Twitter. Read the full thread. Some other background info. Jill Abramson's response. A Hmmmmmmm "*All three* chapters on Vice were clotted with mistakes. Lots of them. The truth promised in Merchants of Truth was often not true. While trying to corroborate certain claims, I noticed that it also contained...plagiarized passages." From Michael C. Moynihan's Twitter. Read the full thread. "THREAD: Jill Abramson plagiarized me at least seven times in her new book, Merchants of Truth." From Ian Frisch's Twitter. Read the full thread. Some other background info. Jill Abramson's response. Another one. And also: LOL. Statement from Simon & Schuster on Jill Abramson's book: "If upon further examination changes or attributions are deemed necessary we stand ready to work with the author in making those revisions." From Max Tani's Twitter. Hace unos días se anunció la terrible noticia del cierre de sección Buzzfeed News México. Este libro se suponía daba unos insights factuales al mundo del periodismo actual, sobre todo en la diferencia de las publicaciones tradicionales y la nueva forma de reportar de lugares como Vice y Buzzfeed. Y era sabido que criticaba fuertemente la pérdida de lo clásico, atribuyendole la culpa a todos desde los millennials hasta a la falta de ética de la sociedad actual. Peroooo, parece ser que me va a servir mejor leer Twitter que leer esto. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Millennial 100% al fin y al cabo.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I have been a New York Times subscriber, in Arizona, for over 25 years. I have been an on-and-off Washington Post subscriber during that time, mostly for work, now for personal interest. When I first began, the ability to learn what was happening outside of AZ, in any depth, was exciting beyond belief. With the advent of internet connectivity, these sources offer curated views of the wider world that I deeply value. So, my interest in how they got from the early 1990’s to here is both personal a I have been a New York Times subscriber, in Arizona, for over 25 years. I have been an on-and-off Washington Post subscriber during that time, mostly for work, now for personal interest. When I first began, the ability to learn what was happening outside of AZ, in any depth, was exciting beyond belief. With the advent of internet connectivity, these sources offer curated views of the wider world that I deeply value. So, my interest in how they got from the early 1990’s to here is both personal and pragmatic; in a time when “fake news” is a hotly over-used term, I treasure my long-term sources. Author Jill Abramson provides an insider’s view of a fascinating, disrupting process. Yes, I was there as customer and co-disruptor. But the backstory is vividly told and worth knowing. Would I behave differently now, knowing how precarious the free press really is, in our democracy? I now maintain my subscriptions with purpose because I realize my role in their continued health. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the transition of the press from paper to digital in the last 25 years. I received my copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Peter O'Kelly

    This book met with both pre- and post-publication controversy, and will soon be revised to correct quote attribution, but if you look beyond the editing-related issues, I believe the book is an excellent and timely review of how journalism rapidly evolved over the last couple decades, including an insightful assessment of the influence of Facebook and Google. Some related resources to consider: • Positive reviews ○ https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/bo... ○ https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo This book met with both pre- and post-publication controversy, and will soon be revised to correct quote attribution, but if you look beyond the editing-related issues, I believe the book is an excellent and timely review of how journalism rapidly evolved over the last couple decades, including an insightful assessment of the influence of Facebook and Google. Some related resources to consider: • Positive reviews ○ https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/bo... ○ https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo... ○ https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/... ○ https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/book... ○ https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifest... ○ https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2019... ○ https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... ○ https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/b... • Negative reviews ○ https://slate.com/culture/2019/01/jil... ○ https://www.npr.org/2019/02/05/691366... ○ https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/692409... ○ https://www.thenation.com/article/jil... • Author interviews ○ https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-ne... https://www.recode.net/2019/1/31/1820...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Megan Johnson

    boycotting the last 100 pages bc Im sick of reading about buzzfeed

  8. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wilson

    Is a one-star review fair if I skimmed this book and didn't take it in fully? No. But we're all past fairness by now, aren't we? Abramson seems to be, given the defensive posture she has assumed in interviews following an embarrassing run of plagiarism revelations. The kindest thing that can be said about the A-B comparisons on offer is that one or more researchers helping her to crank out this book failed to document every borrowed thought or paraphrased sentence. But we're all past kindness by n Is a one-star review fair if I skimmed this book and didn't take it in fully? No. But we're all past fairness by now, aren't we? Abramson seems to be, given the defensive posture she has assumed in interviews following an embarrassing run of plagiarism revelations. The kindest thing that can be said about the A-B comparisons on offer is that one or more researchers helping her to crank out this book failed to document every borrowed thought or paraphrased sentence. But we're all past kindness by now, aren't we? Abramson seems to be, given the other well-documented problems with her narrative (ill-fitting or inaccurate descriptions of some journalists and their backgrounds). The sections I read included portions describing a key Times person I know myself. I found her writing about that person patronizing and self-serving, which also typifies her approach to the Vice and Buzzfeed persons she covers in the book. Even after her book came under fire, I wanted to read Abramson on the media because I thought I'd form a different reaction and see things apart from what criticisms have made obvious. But every page I turned to betrayed how many of her decisions and opinions had been formed ahead of her reporting. An example: Charlottesville. In the index, the city and the event are just that one noun, and the pages it points you toward are in a Vice section. It was Vice that ended up in the wrong place at the right time, allowing a large audience to see inside the day's sickness. After noting how powerful the resulting dispatch was, Abramson writes this about the reporter: With the hit story and her distinctive looks, 35-year-old [Elle] Reeve became a mini-brand, in demand for panels and interviews about the alt-right and white nationalists. ... This was by far Vice News's biggest moment. Abramson has to this point written about Vice's branding, so there's a contextual purpose in "mini-brand." But that phrase also bookends Abramson's description of Reeve, a few pages earlier, as "soft-spoken" and someone who says about herself that she "didn't know how to use chopsticks." Saying Reeve wasn't "from the Ivy League," Abramson chooses as her contrast the fact that Reeve went to the University of Missouri-Columbia. Which is still, you know, a storied journalism school in a politically complex state. Abramson is so nakedly puzzled by non-establishment figures, especially the younger ones, that even when she has targets worthy of skepticism -- that is, every media entity and leader in the book -- she can't wrest her reasoning free of her pro-establishment bias. Everything I skimmed in this book, and most of her interviews in support of it, show a person who reported (or marshaled reporting for) a 500-page book about how media are handling a white-hot sociopolitical moment and decided to set her last scene at a congratulatory Times party. If she forgives the paper for firing her, and it still respects her in return, there's hope or something. Gross.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Edited: I’m really disappointed to see all the accusations of sloppiness and plagiarism in this book. I’ve not chosen to change my original rating, but I will be interested to see how it all plays out. Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for the advanced copy of this nonfiction book. This is a wonderful work of research addressing the digital revolution in media and its specific impacts on BuzzFeed, Vice, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Thank you to Jill Abramson for writing Edited: I’m really disappointed to see all the accusations of sloppiness and plagiarism in this book. I’ve not chosen to change my original rating, but I will be interested to see how it all plays out. Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for the advanced copy of this nonfiction book. This is a wonderful work of research addressing the digital revolution in media and its specific impacts on BuzzFeed, Vice, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Thank you to Jill Abramson for writing a meaningful and important book. It was fascinating to go behind the scenes at the start of the newer companies (and shocking) and somewhat heartbreaking to watch the struggles of the mainstream papers. I am a print and digital Washington Post subscriber and consider it my local paper and feel very grateful to read the paper every morning (and thanks Jeff Bezos for that). I feel like it makes me smarter. I am also a newly returned print and digital subscriber to The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, which I signed up for after a lapse, after the murder of the Capital staff last summer. I think reading this will make me more aware of the tactics that all these companies now use to grab your eyes and hopefully be a little smarter about my own engagement. Also, it gave me some sympathy for The Washington Post who I had seen “lowering” their standards (for example, clickbait-y type things online, sponsoring speaker events with advertisers) to compete in this new world; I understand better that they really have no choice. I highly recommend this book, although it can be a bit dry in parts, it’s very thorough and all important.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    There's a lot of controversy surrounding this book--on sources and whether she can be objective. I thought the book was really interesting--I don't know about the plagiarism claims and I never assume a writer can be objective. I learned a lot about Buzzfeed and Vice and a little more about the Post and the Times. I think the book works better as a history than it does as an analysis or prognostication. Yes, Buzzfeed and Vice knocked the Times and Post off their pedestals slightly, but that is no There's a lot of controversy surrounding this book--on sources and whether she can be objective. I thought the book was really interesting--I don't know about the plagiarism claims and I never assume a writer can be objective. I learned a lot about Buzzfeed and Vice and a little more about the Post and the Times. I think the book works better as a history than it does as an analysis or prognostication. Yes, Buzzfeed and Vice knocked the Times and Post off their pedestals slightly, but that is not to say that it will be those same companies that continue to do so in the future. The idea is that there will be different ways of consuming and making news and the old gatekeepers will not be in control of it. She admits that Trump saved the Times and the Post through increased subscriptions, which is both interesting and worrisome.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Finished: 07.02.2019 Genre: non-fiction Rating: NO SCORE Conclusion: I'm being brutally honest ..I wanted to love this book because I am a news-junkie. I thought I would enjoy knowing more about Buzzfeed and Vice...but the selections were bland. Techies are bringing entertainment not news. Buzz staying within boundaries but Vice pushing the limits of 'edgy'. Even the chapters about NYT and Washington Post in part one could not 'hook' me into reading any further. Old school established customs/conservatism Finished: 07.02.2019 Genre: non-fiction Rating: NO SCORE Conclusion: I'm being brutally honest ..I wanted to love this book because I am a news-junkie. I thought I would enjoy knowing more about Buzzfeed and Vice...but the selections were bland. Techies are bringing entertainment not news. Buzz staying within boundaries but Vice pushing the limits of 'edgy'. Even the chapters about NYT and Washington Post in part one could not 'hook' me into reading any further. Old school established customs/conservatism in boardrooms of the icons in the 1980s publishing world is not a great springboard into a interesting book. Scandals that brought down Peter Arnett and Dan Rather ....some millennials would say "Who?" I used to force myself to finish everything I started, which I think is quite good discipline when you’re young, but once you’ve established your taste, and the penny drops that there are only a certain number of books you’ll get to read before you die So I'm closing this book and ....moving on.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I was excited to hear about this book and add it to my TBR. Then reports of segments of the book that resembled other writers' works erupted. I saw the author interviewed and refusing to call the problem "plagiarism" insisting that she would not have even called it that if one of the reporters under her supervision would have done this while she was at The New York Times. Her protests of carelessness, not plagiarism felt untrue to me, but still I read the book. I'm glad I did since there was a lo I was excited to hear about this book and add it to my TBR. Then reports of segments of the book that resembled other writers' works erupted. I saw the author interviewed and refusing to call the problem "plagiarism" insisting that she would not have even called it that if one of the reporters under her supervision would have done this while she was at The New York Times. Her protests of carelessness, not plagiarism felt untrue to me, but still I read the book. I'm glad I did since there was a lot of the history of how the news has changed with the advent of Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sonja

    I was about three quarters of the way through this book when I learned about the accusations of plagiarism/footnote errors and inaccurate portrayals of new media figures leveled at Jill Abramson. I decided to push through, but this ratcheted up my feelings of mistrust and downgraded the quality of my reading experience. I went into it understanding Abramson’s background would color the work, but these issues moved the book from colored to compromised for me. I worry that her overall point about I was about three quarters of the way through this book when I learned about the accusations of plagiarism/footnote errors and inaccurate portrayals of new media figures leveled at Jill Abramson. I decided to push through, but this ratcheted up my feelings of mistrust and downgraded the quality of my reading experience. I went into it understanding Abramson’s background would color the work, but these issues moved the book from colored to compromised for me. I worry that her overall point about the weaknesses of new media (content compromised by marketing interests, nebulous understanding of ethical reporting, lack of editorial oversight in favor of fast turn-around) were undermined by overstating the youth, inexperience, and cluelessness of the individuals profiled. I appreciated her admission that she couldn’t objectively discuss her work and exit at the NYT. This self-awareness lent more credibility to her accounts of legacy media and their concerns. While the “boomer hates the youngs” trope in the critical reception seems overblown, I do think her background and preconceptions led to these problems. It seems her history in a senior position in legacy media, with attendant research aids and low-level contributing reporters, may have meant she didn’t see the issue with framing a freelance journalist’s interview as an original interview in the text. She also may have overstated the primacy of style in new media to the extent that she omitted inconvenient nuances of those examples she was trying to use to illustrate her points.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This book is dense. There is a lot of information and it isn't the most readable. The vibe was very textbook. While comprehensive, there are more illuminating books out there. And some that are a little less controversial. I wanted more analysis and less of the play-by-play recent history. I'm aware this doesn't always come naturally to an old-school journalist who deals in hard facts, but a book (especially one 500 pages long) isn't always just about presenting the facts. It's a deep dive and r This book is dense. There is a lot of information and it isn't the most readable. The vibe was very textbook. While comprehensive, there are more illuminating books out there. And some that are a little less controversial. I wanted more analysis and less of the play-by-play recent history. I'm aware this doesn't always come naturally to an old-school journalist who deals in hard facts, but a book (especially one 500 pages long) isn't always just about presenting the facts. It's a deep dive and readers, rightly or not, seek more from authors. As noted by the Guardian, the strongest sections of this book are when she focuses on women. A narrower focus on this would have been a timely book, a strong seller, and more interesting. As one of the few women to sit at the top end of the masthead she could have offered an entirely new perspective. Apart from the chapter that covered the time of her tenure editing the NYT the book lacks personality. And you can do both. Her story would have made the wider story more interesting (see Katharine Graham's Personal History, Tina Brown's The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 - 1992, All the President's Men, Charles Bean's The Western Front Diaries of Charles Bean). Abramson’s tenure as first female editor of the NYT will always be significant for that reason alone. And despite the controversies surrounding that tenure, her departure, and indeed those surrounding the contents of this book, her perspective on her time there and on journalism more broadly is also significant. Rather like a female conservative prime minister perhaps her legacy has left women a little wanting, but she forged a path and we can certainly see the difference between deserved criticisms and those that were because she is a woman. And to be quite frank, like many female leaders, she was handed an already sinking ship and expected to clean it up, and ultimately doomed to fail - ie, the glass cliff. (Hello Theresa May and Brexit, Marissa Mayer and Yahoo, Mary Barra and GM... the list goes on). She doesn’t have a perfect record, but was she held to a higher standard? Most definitely. Journalism is valuable and important. People in power (from politicians to billionaires) will always be slightly at odds with it, using it to their advantage and dismissing it when it suits them. But the Fourth Estate is essential, and I can only hope we continue to value it. I said it at the end of my review of Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now, but if this is what we do know (thanks to journalists), what of the things we don't?

  15. 5 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts by Jill Abramson, narrated by January LaVoy. In this non-fiction presentation, Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, who has been accused of plagiarism, attempts to explain what has happened to the print news industry and why. Using the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vice and Buzzfeed as primary examples, she shows how the digital news platform has been the catalyst for the demise of the print newspaper Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts by Jill Abramson, narrated by January LaVoy. In this non-fiction presentation, Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, who has been accused of plagiarism, attempts to explain what has happened to the print news industry and why. Using the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vice and Buzzfeed as primary examples, she shows how the digital news platform has been the catalyst for the demise of the print newspaper industry that was once in the vanguard of news presentation! Most of the facts presented are already known, but she organizes them to illustrate how the people responsible for the loss of interest in reading print news and for the surge in demand for information from a sound bite, have catered to the lowest echelon of society. The news that the early digital companies presented consisted largely of trash with which to attract and titillate, to shock and capture an audience largely interested in negative content of any kind, smut, gossip, etc. The more confounding the news was, the better it was received. The audience originally attracted consisted of the lowest mean common denominator of society, those who wallowed in hateful behavior, erotica, and their own need for fifteen minutes of fame. The digital news innovators had no moral or ethical standards to follow, and quite possibly, none of their own either. Their only guideline was to reach people and create a viral incident online which would create a sensation. For sure, their mantra was not “all the news that’s fit to print”, rather the more unfit it was, the better. Abramson attempts to explain how that original idea morphed from presenting semi-real and sometimes fake news to also publicizing real news. Overall, however, the effort was to create crowd appeal above all. The fact that Americans and others are much more interested in yellow journalism than honest journalism that used to act as the fourth estate, overseeing the wrongs of society, is really the most disheartening fact that I got out of the book. The fact that the public would rather read garbage, rumors, canards, and fake news headlines that stun them, than actually learn about what is really occurring, is extremely dismaying. Discreditable and dishonorable, shadowy sources of news are often the most successful purveyors of information, blocking out the more respectable and honorable news outlets. Clickbait is sought over authentic news. Society is being brainwashed by news services with no standards of honor. The digital platform is how most of the future generations will expand their knowledge of the world, and it is woefully unconcerned about respect for others, honorable behavior toward others or the truthful presentation of information to the world. Under this cloud of media frenzy that wishes only to gain headlines, is it any wonder that an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can gain notoriety even when she spouts nonsense? Is it any wonder that those who call others names are actually guilty of name calling but get away with it? The recent incident with the golfer Matt Kuchar whose tip for his caddy became hot news, is a prime example of what we have become, and the picture is not pretty. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone wants to voice it on some platform. Utube, the Drudge Report and other non-mainstream sources, once marginalized, are now in the forefront and often break news stories without proper vetting. They are excused because they are not mainstream news outlets. I find it a sad commentary on the world today that we cater to ignorance and sensationalism, exaggeration and even outright lies to attract an audience. Is it any wonder that President Trump uses Twitter? How is it different than the methods used by any other news source? He wants to make headlines too! Since the so-called mainstream media won’t give him a moment of positive coverage on their platforms, he attempts to create his own. This is how a generation of young people wants to get its information. They are impatient and sometimes, not even very learned or literate. They do not do their own research to discover facts; they are lazy and ill informed by choice. They want the easy way out for everything because, after all, this is the generation that got a trophy merely for breathing in the presence of an event! This book has more value in the way in which it exposes the trash that news has become, the garbage that it has produced at the expense of truth, and the loss of a platform that once acted as a check and a balance on the government, as an ethical source of information and as a tool to educate the masses. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs we must face in the future.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Merchants of Truth is a bit of a fractured book, and what I mean is that the author tackles too much in it. It is a long book with big ambitions that could easily have been two books with two objectives, which is what I believe this book is. It held my attention pretty well which is why I feel it's a 4-star book. I've read other reviews speaking to the accuracy of some of the facts the author offers. Without getting into that, I think this book's strength is in giving a recent history of how jou Merchants of Truth is a bit of a fractured book, and what I mean is that the author tackles too much in it. It is a long book with big ambitions that could easily have been two books with two objectives, which is what I believe this book is. It held my attention pretty well which is why I feel it's a 4-star book. I've read other reviews speaking to the accuracy of some of the facts the author offers. Without getting into that, I think this book's strength is in giving a recent history of how journalism and delivery methods have changed in the recent past. The book is broken into 4 topics 3 times. The 4 topics are: Buzzfeed, Vice, New York Times and the Washington Post. All of the sections culminate into how Trump won the election, how the media got it wrong, and how the mainstream media fact checks. It felt like the history of these companies she writes about were all kind of forced into this event as the culmination of new media. I enjoyed learning about the creation of Buzzfeed and was repulsed by Vice's business model and working environment (in my ignorance, a news corporation I knew little about). The author worked for the NYT, so some of the passages have a bitter edge to them; this is perhaps the weakest section of the book. It was also interesting to learn the recent history of the Washington Post with the Bezos buyout. This book certainly isn't for everyone considering the length of it, but it is certainly interesting for those wanting to learn how the news is researched and disseminated, along with how people are manipulated into reading certain articles.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    I have been questioning lately how the new became entertainment and more biased than in the past. When I was on the school paper, there were definite rules of journalism: who, what , when and where with no editorial except on the op-ed page. However, over time we have seen that objectivity erode. I blamed it on so many 24 hour new programs attempting to keep viewers interested. The change was much more insidious. I knew vey little about how Buzzfeed and Vice News got their starts. I found this a I have been questioning lately how the new became entertainment and more biased than in the past. When I was on the school paper, there were definite rules of journalism: who, what , when and where with no editorial except on the op-ed page. However, over time we have seen that objectivity erode. I blamed it on so many 24 hour new programs attempting to keep viewers interested. The change was much more insidious. I knew vey little about how Buzzfeed and Vice News got their starts. I found this a fascinating history of how much of the news was taken out of the hands of journalists and editors. The news was being controlled by who get the news (checked or un-checked) out the quickest. Of course, this is putting it in its most simplistic explanation. The book follows Buzzfeed, Vice, The New York Times and The Washington Post during the last few decades illuminating the changing face of the News. I found it fascinating and felt that it was a factual and in depth explanation of the changing world of journalism and even advertising. The viewers are do not even know what is happening most of the time. It does not defend right or left, it is not a political treatise. I believe that it is a necessary or at least important read for for everyone.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Aylward

    The history of the four news businesses is well written and gives you an insiders view of the current state of news the United States. However, it does not look at the state of global news and made no projections for the future.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Maggio

    A candid and self effacing look at why print newspaper transitioned into on-line digital entertainment. A must-read for anyone who concerned about our new technology + profit driven click-bait "digital reality". A candid and self effacing look at why print newspaper transitioned into on-line digital entertainment. A must-read for anyone who concerned about our new technology + profit driven click-bait "digital reality".

  20. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    Also known as "why you should subscribe to your local newspaper along with the NYT and Wapo". Loved this one, listened to the audio-book. Also known as "why you should subscribe to your local newspaper along with the NYT and Wapo". Loved this one, listened to the audio-book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Phil Simon

    I'm aware of the controversy surrounding this book and the author herself has admitted to making some mistakes. Regardless, hers is an important text in understanding current events, the need for a strong, independent media, the disruptive role of technology in society—you know, the little things. I for one think that this is an incredibly important book—one that every concerned member of society ought to read. Nothing less than the future of democracy is at stake if we fail to support journalis I'm aware of the controversy surrounding this book and the author herself has admitted to making some mistakes. Regardless, hers is an important text in understanding current events, the need for a strong, independent media, the disruptive role of technology in society—you know, the little things. I for one think that this is an incredibly important book—one that every concerned member of society ought to read. Nothing less than the future of democracy is at stake if we fail to support journalism.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lee Woodruff

    As the executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson was on the front lines of journalism as the fault lines were appearing in the old world order. With a reporter’s eye for detail, Abramson chronicles the trials and financial tribulations of both the NYT and the Washington Post as they missed opportunities afforded by the internet and digital age. New media darlings Buzzfeed and hard-partying Vice Media, became billion dollar companies in a matter of years as they forged new business mo As the executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson was on the front lines of journalism as the fault lines were appearing in the old world order. With a reporter’s eye for detail, Abramson chronicles the trials and financial tribulations of both the NYT and the Washington Post as they missed opportunities afforded by the internet and digital age. New media darlings Buzzfeed and hard-partying Vice Media, became billion dollar companies in a matter of years as they forged new business models and shredded the old. With Facebook and Google also disrupting the news and advertising space, Abramson had a front row seat to the landscape of radical change. She reports on the events with color, fact and nuance (she has pledged to revise certain sections where she was challenged to have lifted quotes without attribution.) Can the establishment media holds its own with eroding revenues at a time when journalistic ethics and the truth are both endangered pillars of our free society and more important than ever? It’s a smart read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Biena (The Library Mistress)

    First book for 2020! Controversies aside, I learned a lot from this one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Edit: I wrote my review before reading anyone else's. After posting mine, I learned that there are some passages in this book that are, at best, not quoted or cited correctly, and at worst, directly plagiarized. As of 2/10/19 this still seems like an ongoing question, so just keep in mind that I wrote the below before being aware of that aspect. ---------- I really enjoyed this book, as a history of the enormous changes that have taken place in journalism over the last decade. Abramson clearly put Edit: I wrote my review before reading anyone else's. After posting mine, I learned that there are some passages in this book that are, at best, not quoted or cited correctly, and at worst, directly plagiarized. As of 2/10/19 this still seems like an ongoing question, so just keep in mind that I wrote the below before being aware of that aspect. ---------- I really enjoyed this book, as a history of the enormous changes that have taken place in journalism over the last decade. Abramson clearly put incredible effort into the research, and is critical of the shortcomings in both new and old media. If you finish this book with a clear sense of how a news organization should optimally function going forward, I would be impressed. I was left both bewildered and concerned about the issues facing journalism today, and completely unsure what the right model is. A central theme of the book is the tug of war between the journalism side and the business side of any news organization. I did my undergrad degree in Journalism and graduate degree in Business, so I'd like to think I have some understanding of the mindsets of both, and they're pretty divergent. If you think "just do good reporting and that's good business", is all it takes, think again. What brings in the clicks and therefore advertising dollars is not always a deeply researched political story, it is often a twenty word article with a headline like "Ten Reasons You are Like Your Cat, and You Won't Believe Number Four." It is natural for a long standing institution like the New York Times to feel above that kind of click bait, but harder to take that stance when an upstart like BuzzFeed is increasing revenue by millions every year and the Times needs an emergency loan to avoid bankruptcy. There are a litany of other issues like this: The push to publish first rather than verifying everything. The fact that the New York Times can spend all the resources to do an original report, and then the Huffington Post can basically re-print the story and get more clicks because they understand search engine optimization better. The lack of workplace safety for employees at an upstart like Vice. The vulture capitalists killing local news. Native advertising that looks like journalism. Fake news. I won't go into every issue, but suffice to say there are a lot, and Abramson details them very well in her book. The main issue is that in a normal business, you do what will maximize shareholder value. This usually means giving customers what they want, and bringing in increasing profits as a result. In the news industry, as not only a business, but also a pillar of a functioning democracy, there has to be significantly more consideration of maximizing societal value as well. This can be pretty messy when shareholder and societal value seem at odds, and even though customers should care about your ten month investigative report, they don't. They just want whatever reinforces what they already believe. The book just came out as I'm writing this, but I assume one of the debates will be about Abramson's objectivity. She writes about BuzzFeed, Vice and the Washington Post based on interviews she did. But when she writes about the New York Times, she is writing as someone who was at one point running the newspaper, and was eventually fired. I felt she did a great job getting out in front of this, and saying there's no such thing as true objectivity in journalism, and she isn't pretending to be unbiased. She definitely takes shots at her own management abilities, as well as co-workers who she felt screwed her over. But she is telling her truth and I didn't get the sense she was just out to settle scores. She notes where the Times disputes her account. I appreciated her first hand account as it really brings home the challenges anyone in that position faces.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Chekouras

    To paraphrase the David Byrne song, Well, how did we get here? Unarguably the most important question of the post-Obama era. Along comes Jill Abramson with part of the answer in her unnerving book, Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and The Fight for Facts (Simon & Schuster, 2019), a book I would have titled, Merchants of Truth and the Rise of the Lying Class. It’s tempting to blame a certain pathological liar and obstructer of justice in Washington. Not so fast, social media junky. At the To paraphrase the David Byrne song, Well, how did we get here? Unarguably the most important question of the post-Obama era. Along comes Jill Abramson with part of the answer in her unnerving book, Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and The Fight for Facts (Simon & Schuster, 2019), a book I would have titled, Merchants of Truth and the Rise of the Lying Class. It’s tempting to blame a certain pathological liar and obstructer of justice in Washington. Not so fast, social media junky. At the halfway mark of the last century, the new medium of television was almost universally embraced as a means to broaden access to educational content. Its programming would be an equalizer, a democratizer and, therefore, a public good. Long story short, television delivered a willing nation to advertisers, the idea of branding, and the relentless push to buy more, eat more, trade up, spend down. Branding herded us into affinity groups that allowed for quick recognition of people "like us" and to value them more than those who weren't with the program. At the beginning of this century, social media dusted off that promise of universal good and connection because, hey, we’d already bitten once. But what it has done is deliver us again to advertisers, this time slanted heavily to purveyors of ideas. Abramson wisely chooses to tell her story by following the fortunes of four media companies, the old school New York Times and Washington Post in one corner, the challengers VICE and BuzzFeed in the other. From there they battle for the attention (eyeballs/impressions) and credulity of the masses. The framework makes the book extremely readable and fascinating as we watch everything crumble click by click. Let’s begin by acknowledging that television helped reinforce the 4th Estate, a free and independent press. Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Peter Jennings, Connie Chung, Diane Sawyer, et al. provided national perspective that helped solidify and shore up hundreds of local newspapers. Americans trusted television and newspapers to tell them the truth and to the best of their ability the professional journalists did. Exceptions were punished and shamed. Abramson deftly outlines the forces that broke the bond between an independent press and an independent people. She starts with the premise that the independent press delivered a thoughtful, rationale critique of contemporaneous experience while social media, Facebook, Twitter, and later apps come at you from the other side of your brain with emotional experiences. If you doubt her distinction, let me ask you two questions: (1) What is your spirit animal? and (2) What color is this dress? When brands could not wring another dollar from the monolithic American consumer they had made, they found gold in segmentation relying on finer and finer cuts to shape a message targeted to a precise type in an exact place or circumstance; new moms, disgruntled voters, swing states. You. Every silly game played on Facebook, every bullshit quiz, every opportunity to find your superpower, ideal city, or gangster name data mined your preferences, where you lived, what you valued, whether you were red or blue. In short, clicks became a currency. They acquired a dollar value, became saleable, and there was no shortage of buyers. And therein beats the heart of the beast: with plenty of buyers paying in the hundreds of millions, content providers raked in fortunes, whether they told the truth or not because truth no longer mattered. In the fight for revenue, delivering clicks now WAS the point. Truth became ancillary to clicks. Enter BuzzFeed and VICE, sites that produced raw copy without respect for truth, slapping down made up or stolen content that cost them nothing to create and could be sold for the GDP of a small country. We surrendered our privacy, and perhaps our democracy, to watch a cat jockey a Roomba across the kitchen floor. Woe to the New York Times and Washington Post whose extensive operations, original reporting, and ink presses sink them in spiraling debt. Multiply the later by suicide sales to media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch whose only interest is return on investment by leveraging a pointed political agenda. Murdoch’s holdings include Fox News, The Times of London, Dow Jones & Co., The Wall Street Journal, Barrons, National Geographic for petessake (Google for current holdings) and the 4th estate falls. The Washington Post is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. One wonders how much longer the financially shaky New York Times can hold on. And that orange man behind the curtain? He gets it. Twitter has become the 5th estate of American politics. We are in trouble. Abramson sounds a clear and forceful alarm. #tinyreview

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Panek

    For anyone interested in the transformation of journalism and the news landscape that took place from 2000 to 2020, this book is a must-read. It's a reminder not just of the societal value of traditional journalistic norms, but also of the value of books. There are thousands of articles about the "death" and future of journalism/newspapers/truth/objectivity/etc. Some of them are written from the perspective of legacy media traditionalists while others are written by digital native disrupters. Al For anyone interested in the transformation of journalism and the news landscape that took place from 2000 to 2020, this book is a must-read. It's a reminder not just of the societal value of traditional journalistic norms, but also of the value of books. There are thousands of articles about the "death" and future of journalism/newspapers/truth/objectivity/etc. Some of them are written from the perspective of legacy media traditionalists while others are written by digital native disrupters. All of them can only scratch the surface, not only because of their brevity but also because of their lack of an undervalued good in the information marketplace: access. That's the greatest virtue of Merchants of Truth: the access Abramson provides to the news landscape at the start of the 21st century. As Executive Editor of The New York Times in the midst of the industry's transition to digital, she was privy to the meetings and personalities that are as much a part of the observed trends in journalism as the much-hyped technologies of the internet and social media. The writing is accessible and engaging without pandering or striving for perfectly objective detachment. The book is divided into parts examining three phases of four news organizations: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and Vice. It's a nice balance of legacy media and disruptors, and Abramson's accounts of the organizations with which she had no direct experience are no less detailed than her account of the Times. So much writing on the social and economic trends wrought by the internet is subject to presentism and obsessions with futures and deaths of industries. By zooming out and looking at 20 years of evolutions of four entities, Abramson gives us a much richer understanding of how large organizations - old and new - adapt over time. Neither Buzzfeed nor Vice were flashes in the pan, but they didn't kill off the legacy news organizations. There is no tidy narrative here, which makes it feel more like the truth. Where the book seems to wander furthest from the truth is when it examines the role of Facebook in the news marketplace. No doubt Facebook was as much a part of the transformation of news as any other entity, but Abramson's single chapter on its role is overheated, repeating oft-misinterpreted research on its impact and generally piling blame on the world's favorite whipping boy circa 2020, Mark Zuckerberg. In these moments, Merchants of Truth falls victim to the same biases it observers in the digital attention economy. The need to point pitchforks at the powerful often outstrips the desire to understand a complex world, regardless of whether one is writing clickbait headlines or a book. The book is at its best when it tracks the careers of reporters and editors. Surprisingly, legacy media and disruptors have a lot in common: star reporters like Ezra Klein bounce from legacy to digital back to legacy organizations, and all struggle with remaining relevant and solvent over the long term. Journalism hasn't died and its "futures" (too complex to be predicted, at least for now) say more about our present hopes and fears than the actual future. Better to set aside the think-pieces and spend time with an experienced, intelligent, witty writer like Abramson.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Book

    Merchants of Truth is a disturbing read. The subtitle, “The Business of News and the Fight for Facts”, succinctly describes the takeaway from this 545 page book. And the first sentence of the book’s blurb warns that it is not a simple read: “The definitive report on the disruption of the news media over the last decade.” Respected and experienced journalist Jill Abramson tackled this complex issue through exploring four major media organizations in depth: BuzzFeed, VICE, New York Times and Washin Merchants of Truth is a disturbing read. The subtitle, “The Business of News and the Fight for Facts”, succinctly describes the takeaway from this 545 page book. And the first sentence of the book’s blurb warns that it is not a simple read: “The definitive report on the disruption of the news media over the last decade.” Respected and experienced journalist Jill Abramson tackled this complex issue through exploring four major media organizations in depth: BuzzFeed, VICE, New York Times and Washington Post, plus a single chapter on Facebook’s role in digital publishing. The effect of that disruption is the collapse of local newspapers across the country with thousands of journalists out of work. The business model for printed newspapers relies on advertising to cover the costs of producing a daily paper. Two things destroyed the efficiency of that business model: advertising moved to the internet (think Craigslist) and the younger audience prefers the emotionally based news accounts offered by digital publishers like BuzzFeed, VICE and Facebook. The BuzzFeed story starts with the background of Jonah Peretti, providing, in detail how it all began. The same approach is used for VICE, starting with the college graduation of Shane Smith. The single chapter on Facebook is painfully informative, segues into a section on Breitbart and then identifies BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman as the reporter who, in 2014, detected what he called fake news “defined as 1) an that item traded on the appearance of legitimate journalistic authority and 2) it did so for financial gain.” According to Ms. Abramson the digital publishers continue to research how to most effectively manipulate readers’ emotions to their financial benefit. The chapters on the New York Times and the Washington Post focus on how they managed their failing business model as digital overtook the news media and how the moves they made are working today. The print publishers walk a tight line between maintaining professional journalistic integrity while trying to improve their financial results using digital to distribute news. Merchants of Truth is a hard read. While the writing is clear the information is simply overwhelming, and the content is dense. Don’t let the almost excessive details provided by Ms. Abramson obscure the bottom line here: factual news is an endangered species.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    So, I’m from the old school of the printed newspaper page and having a difficult time accepting that the research/impartiality/independence that used to be reflected in the printed newspaper page is no longer there. It is the fault of those organizations that they were too soon to condemn the importance of online journalism and too late to catch up. I blame that completely on their elitism and arrogance, pretty much of which is the author’s message. This book was very informative from a historica So, I’m from the old school of the printed newspaper page and having a difficult time accepting that the research/impartiality/independence that used to be reflected in the printed newspaper page is no longer there. It is the fault of those organizations that they were too soon to condemn the importance of online journalism and too late to catch up. I blame that completely on their elitism and arrogance, pretty much of which is the author’s message. This book was very informative from a historical perspective on what has happened to the news I grew up with and admired. Especially disconcerting is how material is now being presented online (and probably influencing printed stuff), often incorrect/biased and certainly not independent. Not being from the millennial generation or the one following, I did not grow up with a computer glued to my hand 24/7 and obviously cannot fully relate. I look at how those generations are receiving information and lament at what they are being largely spoon fed as accurate or important; however, most of what they are told to or do believe is important or accurate is neither – it is advertiser/sponsor tainted material, or material that has simply had the highest number of clicks. “Trending” topics don’t make them correct – only popular. Funny videos get a lot of views and can be “trending” but no one would consider them as news, nor fully trust that they might not be staged. Quite honestly, I do not know how they will ever find a way to be fully informed on important issues that will affect their lives. And if they don’t find a way to break through the BS out on line, their lives will be irreparably damaged. However, I won’t be around, so they will have to figure it out or suffer. I can influence my kids and point this out to them but too many who consume online/social media are not aware of how the “news” is being packaged for them, with attempts to influence their thinking. Certainly, this happens in the printed news, but typically the articles are much longer and you can form your own opinion…and you aren’t subject to having 50 different versions of a paper available for you to view before deciding to buy it. In the end, the book is a sad commentary. I did have some problem with the very liberal take the author took on many things…but this is to be expected given she was heavily associated with the New York Times.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    I can't say I enjoyed this overly long book which discusses the changing ways in which people are getting their news. Subscriptions to print media (newspapers) have been falling over the years, while more and more people are only getting their news from on-line sources and social media. In Merchants of Truth, Jill Abramson, a former NY Times editor, writes about her personal career at the Times, about the changes going on with print media and how they figured out how to compete in a digital form I can't say I enjoyed this overly long book which discusses the changing ways in which people are getting their news. Subscriptions to print media (newspapers) have been falling over the years, while more and more people are only getting their news from on-line sources and social media. In Merchants of Truth, Jill Abramson, a former NY Times editor, writes about her personal career at the Times, about the changes going on with print media and how they figured out how to compete in a digital format, and about the rise of social media as a source of news for people today, especially among younger Americans. Abramson spent some time discussing how on-line services like Vice and BuzzFeed began, and a little more about how sources such as Facebook and Politico became accepted and significant sources of news. She also explained in some detail who the key developers of the various social media feeds are, how "clickbait" is so commonly used to get "hits" which brings in revenue, and how users are easily and frequently manipulated. Today, it's easier than ever to remain in an echo chamber of your own beliefs. Social media, favorite blogs, television networks, talk radio, etc., offer up a continual stream of information dedicated to a specific point of view of political beliefs, and people can choose only from those sources which reinforce their biases. For many, it's easy, and comforting, to choose only sources which feed us news we're most likely to favor, news we're most likely to want to see. Those politically oriented sources have the effect of simply reinforcing preexisting beliefs among readers. One thing which seemed true is that so much of the "news" on politically oriented blogs and social media is often unverified, inflammatory, or simply made-up just to get "clicks". Finding news that fits your biases and preconceptions does not mean it's true, nor does finding news which challenges your beliefs is necessarily false. I never trusted much of what I saw from social media before reading this book, and will trust even less going forward. ​An important message I received from this book is that before simply buying into any controversial "news" report, check it out from various news sources, at least one of which is likely to covers news from a different perspective.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Josh Spilker

    It's ironic when a well-known journalist commits plagiarism and sloppy fact-checking. This was the case with this book. Abramson attempts to detail how digital publishing and sharing has affected journalism. She focuses on 2 legacy publications (NYT & WashPo) and two newer ones (Buzzfeed, Vice). She totally botched the Vice section (where most of the alleged/actual plagiarism occurred). Vice is mostly not a news publication (more like a magazine) and their journalism has really only taken root i It's ironic when a well-known journalist commits plagiarism and sloppy fact-checking. This was the case with this book. Abramson attempts to detail how digital publishing and sharing has affected journalism. She focuses on 2 legacy publications (NYT & WashPo) and two newer ones (Buzzfeed, Vice). She totally botched the Vice section (where most of the alleged/actual plagiarism occurred). Vice is mostly not a news publication (more like a magazine) and their journalism has really only taken root in broadcast/video. Both of those topics--magazines & broadcast/video--are Abranson's weak points. She has little to no background in those areas. Couple that with a cutting-edge worldview and Abransom is way out of her league in all regards: age, mentality and sources. It's no wonder this is where many of the mistakes came from. If she would've focused on Vox or Fivethirtyeight or Politico (which is referenced within the WaPo) or Breitbart even, I think it would've made more sense for her project. Another approach would've been to only focus on her strengths: traditional newspapers. Doing the same analysis for the LA Times or Chicago Tribune would be marvelous. Or analyzing local news such as in the Denver, Seattle or New Orleans markets could be good. Instead Abramson tries to be "cool" or something and loses a lot of credibility in the process. Once I figured this out and only read the NYT and WaPo sections, it became a lot better read.

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