Book Review: Dish by Jeannette Walls


Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls

Before she wrote the perennially best-selling Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls spilled the beans on other people’s dirty little secrets.  She was a gossip columnist for New York magazine and MSNBC.

In Dish:  How Gossip Became the News and the News Became Just Another Show, Ms. Walls details the decline of the First Amendment and journalistic integrity.  It was written in 2000.  I found the book to be highly informative, extraordinarily candid, and quite sobering.  In a nutshell:

The gossip industry has always involved a struggle between journalists and the wealthy and powerful ~ be they politicians or movie stars ~ for control of information about their private lives.

Dish

This isn’t news to anybody, but the crap that goes on behind the headlines and inside newsrooms was exceedingly disquieting and disturbing.  My respect for a great many journalists plummeted.  The attitude of an anonymous Time reporter about the launch of People magazine summed it up brilliantly:

I know you’re taking a lot of crap about this magazine, but I’m telling you. . .it’s going to pay my pension some day.

Ms. Walls’ last observation in the book was inordinately accurate:

By killing certain stories and editing or cutting others, the power of the establishment media to control what information reached the public had been virtually extinguished by the Internet.  And that, rather than the fear of yet another lurid scandal, may have been what made the mainstream journalists at the Press Club shudder when [Matt] Drudge, in conclusion, declared, “Let the future begin.”

Related links and posts:

How Jeannette Walls Spins Good Stories Out of Bad Memories, by Alex Witchel, New York Times Magazine, 5/24/13

Jeannette Walls:  The Glass Castle (Book Review + More), 10/11/11

Book Review:  The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls, 9/7/13

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