Publication date: April 2019
Review, short version: Two roses out of four.
Review, long version:
Jessica Yellin, author of Savage News, is a TV news veteran – she began her broadcast career 1998 and over the next 15 years worked for ABC and MSNBC, and also for CNN, where she became Chief White House correspondent.
So it makes sense that her book’s main character, Natalie Savage, has a career in broadcast journalism and is on a journey to be her network’s next Chief White House correspondent.
That journey includes competing for the White House position with a guy who is stupid, amoral, and totally without integrity. Natalie is smart, has scruples, plus loads of integrity – which she’s in danger of jettisoning, if that’s what it takes to get the White House job.
What else is Natalie dealing with?
- A heinous female manager who sends her texts like this one, after a White House press briefing: “I was not happy with that performance. And what is wrong with your hair? I expect better at the White House.”
- An equally heinous mother who’s getting remarried soon: “This is about my special day. My wedding. My chance at happiness. Are you trying to spoil it?”
- Sexual harassment from men she reports to – no surprise there – including the head of the network, a total slimeball known as the “Chief.”
- Comments on her appearance from the Chief including, “We need you to step up your hair and makeup a few notches” and, “You’re too buttoned up – can you unbutton your blouse one button?” and, “You have a nice chest…I’d like to see more of you on camera, if you know what I mean.”
When the Chief’s verbal harassment transitions into inappropriate touching, it’s sickening.
And again, no surprise.
But there is an upside: Savage News is also laced with Yellin’s humor – sometime with similes, sometimes with sarcasm, but always funny:
“Matt went back to his phone, which was quivering in his hand spasmodically like a heart waiting to be transplanted.”
[The White House communications director] “stood behind the podium surveying the room with the pinched look of a bachelor tasked with changing a dirty diaper.”
“The president doesn’t understand the potential for an international crisis because he has the attention span of a fruit fly with ADD.”
(I have no doubt to whom the last refers.)
Yellin also gives us a chillingly accurate look at broadcast journalism today, and reminds us how easy it is to manipulate the news – and the truth – when so many of us believe everything we see on social media.
As she says on her website,
The News is Broken, and the cause is giant news organizations who sell panic and fear. They leave out the context, the education, the reason. They have forgotten why the news is critically important to democracy.
So I’ll say – read Savage News for Natalie’s journey, and for the humor.
And for a timely reminder that TV news is often more about revenue and ratings…
Than accuracy and accountability.
Proceed with caution.