Brooke Gladstone—former Russian correspondent, Stanford fellow, and longtime cohost of On the Media, NPR's weekly radio show focused on the state of journalism and today's media—has turned to comics: The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media Norton , a nonfiction comics work created in collaboration with artist Josh Neufeld. Like her radio show, Gladstone's book is an effort to offer an active analysis of the media, its broad history, and its inseparable relationship to technology—and the recurring bouts of public panic and hysteria that have characterized that relationship since the earliest days of reporting public events. But the book is also a very funny, lively examination of how big-time daily news reporting really functions, in the past and today, while peering ahead at the future as both media and journalism transition to a digital era and new problems. Working with comics artist Neufeld the creator of A. Anyone who has listened to Gladstone reporting on On the Media will immediately recognize both her tone and approach, as she reinterprets her broadcast style for a book as well as for a comic.
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It takes me an absurdly long time to form an opinion. It took me some 20 years of writing about the media to coalesce a view coherent enough to call my own. The fact that I chose a comic-book format to present that view might seem a little peculiar to those who know me from the radio. After all, radio is the medium without pictures. But it's not really. More than television, more than newspapers, radio creates a sense of intimacy—the illusion of a one-to-one relationship—because the listener relies on the reporter's voice to paint pictures.
Voices are very personal. I thought that I could re-create radio's intimacy if I had the ability to look readers in the eye while guiding them through my media manifesto, The Influencing Machine , which starts with the invention of writing and ends in the year Another reason for using comics: The world is full of media books with competing predictions of cyber-utopia or annihilating chaos.
I steer between those shoals, and sometimes bump up against both of them. My argument don't rejoice, don't panic is built on many small, historical moments. I want those moments to stick with the reader. Pictures, especially the sly, evocative pictures drawn here by Josh Neufeld, are sticky. The first excerpt, called "Objectivity," challenges two common assumptions about objectivity: that it is essential to good journalism and that it is real.
It is neither. The second excerpt is a cautionary tale about numbers. There are quite a few such tales in the book about how humans are wired to absorb information that confirms their worldview, and to repel information that disputes it. The quality of that information is immaterial.
The point of the book is that the media are not the "influencing machine" of popular imagination , but rather a mirror. We can change the reflection, but it's very hard to do. Coming Thursday: The Goldilocks Number —why the same figure pops up in media reports about pedophiles, murders, snakebites, car accidents, malaria, and everything else.
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The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld – review
One of the coolest and most charming book releases of this year, The Influencing Machine is a graphic novel about the media, its history, and its many maladies — think The Information meets The Medium is the Massage meets Everything Explained Through Flowcharts. And as the book quickly makes clear, it has always been thus. Everything we hate about the media today was present at its creation: its corrupt or craven practitioners, its easy manipulation by the powerful, its capacity for propagating lies, its penchant for amplifying rage. Also present was everything we admire — and require — from the media: factual information, penetrating analysis, probing investigation, truth spoking to power. Same as it ever was. The Influencing Machine then turns to the timely, framing in pragmatically optimistic terms the impact of the Internet not only on traditional news outlets, but on our minds themselves. And even the most strident critics of the Internet cannot truly wish for it to stop, considering how far we have come since we grasped that first tool.
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It takes me an absurdly long time to form an opinion. It took me some 20 years of writing about the media to coalesce a view coherent enough to call my own. The fact that I chose a comic-book format to present that view might seem a little peculiar to those who know me from the radio. After all, radio is the medium without pictures.