Friday, June 24, 2005

The Nation's Victor Navasky in Chicago tomorrow 11:00 am (author of A Matter of Opinion and Naming Names)

From an e-mail to sent out to all who sign up for alerts (and written by Peter Rothberg of The Nation):

Nation publisher Victor Navasky will be appearing in Chicago tomorrow morning, Saturday June 25, at the Left of Center bookstore in conversation with Danny Postel, Chicago editor of openDemocracy magazine about his new book, "A Matter of Opinion," and the importance of magazines of dissent.

Saturday, June 25,
Left of Center bookstore
Granville (6200 north) between Broadway & Sheridan

Free of charge, plus coffee and croissants provided!
Call 773-338-1513 or e-mail for info and directions.

A book-signing will follow the program.

You can get a taste of Navasky's book from a recent Nation magazine excerpt.

You can also listen to Navasky talking with Marc Cooper on a recent episode of the RadioNation AudioBlog.

Check out the website for "A Matter of Opinion" for info and to order copies online.

The Third Estate Sunday Review's last "Five Books, Five Minutes." From that entry:

Ava: Which brings us to my pick.

A Matter of Opinion by Victor S. Navasky

Jim: I was expecting more of a history of The Nation because Victor S. Navasky is the editor.
C.I.: Katrina vanden Heuvel is the current editor. The baton was passed.
Jim: I stand corrected. And we'll note, if you're reading this early enough, you can catch her later this morning on ABC's This Week. Navasky's book was about the role of the press and I did enjoy that. You liked the book a lot.
C.I.: Me? Yes, I did. It'll make great source material for someone who wants to write a history of The Nation, but no it's not the definative history of The Nation.
Betty: Was Naomi Klein even mentioned?
C.I.: She's mentioned at least once, when Navasky is discussing the Nation writers that go on TV, he mentions her as one of them who does. That's all I'm remembering but I didn't reread it. I ordered that book and read it two weeks ago. I'm not remembering Patricia J. Williamson being mentioned at all. I'm a huge fan of Navasky's Naming Names.
Betty: I liked this book but how would you rank it against Naming Names?
C.I.: Naming Names is one of those lightening strikes once books. To me, it read like he'd pour every bit of time and heart into each page. Naming Names is about the red scare and McCarthyism. I really enjoyed this book, and mention it at The Common Ills, but I don't know that he could have gone as deep with this one. We're excerpting the part on objectivity --
Ty: Which you selected.
C.I.: Which I selected, so let me state that I'm not talking about objectivity missing from the book, I'm just noting the huge section of time that's covered in this book. It's a strong book on journalism and the state of it.
Jess: You had told me to watch for the period on being a college professor and I really enjoyed those parts.
C.I.: Yes and that's being covered as well. So in four hundred pages, it's not going to be able to cover everything. In cinematic terms, there are a lot of wide shots with the occassional close up.
Dona: I also found the parts on The New York Times interesting.
C.I.: And that might have made a better excerpt.
Dona: He had an interesting observation -- if The Times hasn't reported on it, it was hard for him to interest them in it. My summary, if the paper of record hasn't weighed in, it hasn't happened. He noted that the paper's Week In Review was basically a greatest hits of topics The Times had covered during the week.
Jess: I was looking for some things on Naomi Klein's writings or Christian Parenti's and I didn't find any.
C.I.: Yes, that would be a period that there really wasn't a close up for. Someone who's been reading The Nation for a year or two would have enjoyed a discussion of Parenti's international coverage or of Naomi Klein's two parter on James Baker, for instance. The mainstream press ignored Klein's article and its one of the most important pieces, my opinion, that The Nation's done in the last twelve months. I'm not even remembering Parenti being mentioned, Christian Parenti, not Michael.
Rebecca: As everyone knows I have mad lust crushes on both Christian Parenti and Dahr Jamail, I'm almost postive that neither was mentioned. There were sections on Susan Sontag and Gore Vidal that came alive and I'm assuming that even a new reader of The Nation will know of them but I would have liked to have read about Christian Parenti. I was glad that he noted The New Republic was neoliberal but I'd argue that's be[ing]* generous. He also noted that about The Washington Monthly which I'd agree with but Wally's e-mailed me asking why The Nation's website provides a link to The Washington Monthly? I have no clue.
Jim: I'm surprised that they're providing a link to Washington Monthly. Hearing the discussion on the book, I'm enjoying it more. I liked it while I was reading it, but I think I really like it now. There was a great deal of ground to cover and it's easy to be reading through it and not realize how much registered. Discussing various sections like this now, I'm remembering parts that didn't honestly stick out at the time. I think it's a good discussion book.
Jess: So C.I. and I were, to put it in the easiest terms, thumbs up on the book. Are you saying that too?
Jim: I think we all are, right?
Ava: Yes. I think the book we were expecting was different from what we found but Navasky's book is well worth reading. Maybe Katrina vanden Heuvel will write the one we were expecting. By the way, thank you C.I. for excerpting your critique of The New York Times panel Katrina vanden Heuvel served on. I saw that Friday and I'd been meaning to ask if you knew when that was because I was on the phone with Jess' Dad this week and we were talking about the editorial on Todd Purdum and what other pieces we had really loved. He'd missed that and I couldn't remember when it went up. He called this morning [Saturday] to say he liked that one a great deal.
Jess: Is there anyone here that my parents aren't talking to or e-mailing? Just wondering?
Rebecca: Come on Jess, share the wealth.
C.I.: That wasn't planned as an excerpt. I ended up going there via a tangent, as is so often the case, and I was in hurry but I remember when I posted thinking that Jim would say, "You should have made that its own entry!"
Jim: I would have said that. That's what I told Dona, in fact.
Excerpt from pages 409-410:
[. . .] But before I go there, I want to say a few words about objectivity, which is often (wrongly, in my view) posed as opinion's foe. As far as I'm concerned, when in 1993 Molly Ivins achieved the ripe middle age of forty-nine, she disposed of the objectivity question for all time: "The fact is that I am a forty-nine-year old white, female, college-educated Texan," she said. "All of that affects the way I see the world. There's no way in hell that I'm going to see anything the same way that a fifteen-year-old black high-school dropout does. We all see the world from where we stand. Anybody's who's ever interviewed five eyewitnesses to an automobile accident knows there's no such thing as objectivity."
Here is what two other alumni of that ostensible paragon of objectivity The New York Times (yes, believe it or not, Molly, too is an alumna of the Times) have to say.
First, the Washington columnist Russell Baker wrote in his memoir:
"Objective journalism forbade a reporter to go beyond what the great man said. No matter how dull, stupid, vicious, or mendacious they might be, the utterances of the great were reported deadpan, with nary a hint that the speaker might be a bore, a dunce, a brute, or a habitual liar." And, I might add, as far as balance goes, canceling out the misguided quote of one great man with the misinformed quote of another gets the public no closer to the truth or even the issue.
Now, listen to David Halberstam, one of the best and the brightest practitioners of mainstream journalism:
"In truth, despite the fine talk of objectivity the only thing mildly approaching objectivity was the form in which the reporter wrote the news, a technical style which required the journalist to be much dumber and more innocent than in fact he was. So he wrote in a bland uncritical way which gave greater credence to the utterances of public officials, no matter how mindless these utterances."

We all did recommend the book and this was probably the book that's inspired the most back and forth conversation in the "Five Minutes, Five Books" feature. It's covering a lot of ground and it really is the kind of book that benefits from having someone who's also read it to discuss it with.

(The excerpt above is in full, FYI. That's partly to demonstrate the back and forth in the feature which is intended to be a quick, instant analysis that offers a few lines on each book. With A Matter of Opinion, that wasn't possible which is why I personally enjoy the book and think many members might as well. It's also in full because if I left out Rebecca's comments re: Washingotn Monthly, I would've heard from some crying "censorship.")

(*Indicates my correction. It is "being." Ava and I take the notes during the roundtables and Rebecca said "being." In fairness to Rebecca, I'll correct it here -- this is my first time reading it. Ava and I were working like crazy on the TV review and if I did read over this, it was just a quick glance. There were, as noted here all already, huge problems with posts being lost during the posting stage so the error might have popped up during an attempt to recreate the entry after it was lost -- either partially or in full.)

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