Sunday, March 20, 2016

Academy Winner Puts Spotlight On Media & Books

Even though I see plenty of movies in the theater every year, I somehow didn’t get to see Spotlight, the Oscar winner for Best Picture of the Year, until mid-March.  The wait was worth it.  Though the story was nicely told.  I don’t believe it deserved the grand prize.  But I did find it fascinating to see how the movie portrayed The Boston Globe as it broke a huge story about the Catholic Church cover-up scandal of protecting pedophile priests.  As the movie pointed out, the paper in its own way, hadn’t done enough to expose the truth until an elite unit of the paper, called Spotlight, took the interest, time and resources to write an in-depth well-researched piece of award-winning journalism.  Any author could do the same thing.

Books don’t just cover a news item and move on the way newspapers do. The book’s power and appeal as it goes, and gathers information in such a comprehensive way that it brings people to swiftly judge or think in a certain way.  A book, page after page, overwhelms the reader, with facts, questions, and arguments.  A book that zones in on an important topic and applies journalistic ethics and principles to the gathering of information, conducting interviews and properly analyzing data will go a long way to making a convincing argument.

Unfortunately, the type of reporting conducted by The Globe back then, in 2001, is not being done today.  Cutbacks in the newsroom and a reliance on newswire stories, secondhand reporting on tweets and You Tube videos, and a smaller amount of space to report the news have all conspired to dilute our media. So, the irony here is we have more media outlets than ever before, but we have fewer institutions – like a New York Times – to adequately construct in-depth, investigative pieces.

It needs to be done by authors and their books.  But many authors don’t have access to the tips, insights or rumors that newsrooms uncover or are exposed to.  So today’s author depends on hints of a story worthwhile pursuing, but the shrinking media makes fewer stories – and hints – available.

There’s a close link between journalism and books. Many, many, many books – fiction or non-fiction – take a lead from what the media reports on.  In fact, many books are written by journalists.  Fewer journalists, fewer books.  Fewer unique stories published by the media, fewer seeds or ideas for books.  See the pattern?

Newsweek has been writing in-depth pieces since it reappeared on the newsstand a year or two ago.  Other magazines will also go deeper into a story than a daily paper. But few investigate something like The Globe did.

Some stories simply can’t be told neatly in a short newspaper article.  Some things need a deeper look, but who has the time and resources to do this?  It’s up to authors to go it alone and defend our democracy.  Authors need to investigate the powers that be – the government, the wealthy, the politicians, the crime syndicates, the charities, the schools, the church – and even the media.

The current checks and balances is out of wack.  The three branches of government watch each other – the executive, judicial and legislative.  The Fourth Estate – journalism – watches the first three.  The Fifth Estate – online media – comments on everything and shapes these quips instantaneously.  All of them work together to expose one another – or to collude and help their self-serving interests.  It’s the author and her book that, in my view, hold the country together.  

Authors are an independent army of trained eyes, educated cars, and well-intentioned people who can write books that make a difference.

This means we need to teach writers to become better at what they do.  Writers need to produce books based on facts, not beliefs or ideologies.  They need to present the truth in a fair manner.  They need to know how to conduct research, interviews, and data analysis.  
Our society will depend on how good our authors are at uncovering and presenting the truth.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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