Politics meet publishing in books by Chozick, Farrow, Goldberg, Tapper

A week after the publication of James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty kicked off a frenzied news cycle, a quartet of political books out today offer additional fodder for political junkies. The books are Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary, a memoir of her decade covering two Clinton campaigns; Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace, his look at the changing face of American diplomacy; Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West, an effort by the conservative writer to account for the problems facing western societies; and Jake Tapper’s The Hellfire Club, a fictional account of a deadly conspiracy set in 1954 Washington, DC, with echoes in the present. Farrow (#27), Goldberg (#57), and Chozick (#73) are all in the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon as of this morning (Comey’s remains in the top spot).

Given the endless interest in the 2016 election, Chozick’s memoir of her time on the trail with Hillary Clinton will likely make the most news. Chozick served as The New York Times’s lead reporter on the Clinton campaign, and also covered her 2008 effort during the Democratic primaries. The Washington Post’s book critic Carlos Lozada describes Chasing Hillary as “a buffet-style book—media criticism here, trail reminiscences there, political analysis and assorted recollections from Chozick’s own past tossed throughout.” Media watchers over the weekend quickly picked out Chozick’s reckoning with the role her own paper’s coverage of Clinton’s email scandal played in the closing month of the most recent campaign. She expresses regret for focusing on emails hacked from John Podesta’s account, allowing, in her view, Times reporters to become “puppets in Vladimir Putin’s master plan.” Chozick’s colleague Nick Confessore, who shared a byline with her on several of those stories, pushed back against that idea on Twitter.

The other books out today offer broader perspectives on the current political environment. Farrow, fresh off a Pulitzer win for his Harvey Weinstein bombshell, is promoting his look at the State Department in a time of waning influence and budget cuts. He tells NPR that the crisis didn’t start under Trump: “It’s not unprecedented. This is something that has been a long time coming.” Goldberg, a mainstay at National Review, earned plaudits from The New York Times’s David Brooks, who calls Suicide of the West a “debate-shifting book.” Tapper’s fictional effort is a departure from his role as a CNN anchor, but BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith writes that his thriller “has the best qualities of this sort of historical fiction, which include the winking perspective of the present.

TRENDING: Meet the journalism student who found out she won a Pulitzer in class

None of these books will have the impact of Comey’s look back at his time in the FBI and interactions with Donald Trump, but each offers a window into the state of politics in an era in which interest has never been higher. Below, excerpts from the books that offer a peak at their contents.

  • Chasing Hillary: The New York Times published an adaptation from Chozick’s book with the provocative headline, ““They were never going to let me be president.”
  • War on Peace: In The New Yorker, Farrow looks at the final days of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
  • Suicide of the West: National Review published an excerpt from Goldberg’s book laying out his thesis of society at the precipice.
  • The Hellfire Club: Entertainment Weekly has the first chapter of Tapper’s thriller.


Other notable stories

  • Journalists at the Toronto Star are providing blanket coverage of a tragedy in the city after a van plowed through pedestrians yesterday, killing 10 and injuring 15.
  • Vanity Fair announced this morning that it is launching a metered paywall. Editor Radhika Jones writes that readers will get four free articles per month, after which they’ll be offered the opportunity to subscribe, with the first three months free.
  • The Des Moines Register’s Mike Killen profiles rural Iowa’s “Trump translator,” radio reporter Bob Leonard. Leonard, himself no fan of Trump, credits his ability to listen to Iowans’ views to his time driving a cab over a decade ago. He now spends his time reporting for KNIA/KRLS radio, and interpreting Iowans’ continued support for the president to a wider audience through columns at larger publications like the Kansas City Star and New York Times. Killen writes that Leonard has “railed against the blanket stereotypes of dull hicks on the prairie who often spilled from the pens of big media but later tried to understand what his conservative friends saw in Trump.”
  • For CJR, Ryan Bell writes that AM radio is making a comeback in Puerto Rico. The damage from Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico’s already struggling media industry in shambles, but radio is filling the void, Bell writes. “Maria served as a moment of contraction in the news industry,” WORA-TV production manager Carolina Rodriguez Plaza tells him. “Meanwhile, AM radio emerged even stronger. Young people in the under-35 demographic are listening to radio news for the first time in their lives. Radios are at the center of a culture shift. Neighbors sit together drinking coffee and listening to the news.”
  • Kanye West’s return to Twitter has earned him new fans in the pro-Trump media. Following tweets praising right-wing personalities Candace Owens and Scott Adams, Fox’s Jesse Watters called West a “modern-day philosopher.” The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani has a nice explanation of what’s going on with Kanye.
  • CJR’s Meg Dalton reports on a legal case that could have far-reaching implications for defamation suits against writers. Freelancer Ryan Goldberg is potentially being sued by Las Vegas oddsmaker RJ Bell over a story he wrote for Deadspin in 2016. Bell is being represented by Charles Harder, who served as Hulk Hogan’s lawyer in the suit that forced Gawker into bankruptcy.

ICYMI: Sean Hannity in the spotlight

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Sean Hannity in the spotlight

Coverage of the Trump presidency has continuously focused on palace intrigue and controversies surrounding aides and cabinet members, turning people in positions that don’t traditionally draw much attention into household names. But the past week has seen the lens turn to a Trump advisor outside the White House who needs no introduction.

Sean Hannity, already facing scrutiny for his public cheerleading and private consultations with President Trump, was revealed in court last week as a client of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer. Criticized for a lack of transparency, the Fox News host defended his public support for Cohen by arguing that he had merely asked Cohen’s advice on real estate matters. The Guardian’s Jon Swaine investigated Hannity’s real estate holdings, finding records that “link Hannity to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade.” Swaine also found that Hannity “amassed part of his property collection with support from the US Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a fact he did not disclose when praising Ben Carson, the Hud secretary, on his television show last year.”

Update: After publication of this newsletter, Fox News PR emailed a statement from Sean Hannity: “It is ironic that I am being attacked for investing my personal money in communities that badly need such investment and in which, I am sure, those attacking me have not invested their money. The fact is, these are investments that I do not individually select, control, or know the details about; except that obviously I believe in putting my money to work in communities that otherwise struggle to receive such support.

“I have never discussed with anybody at HUD the original loans that were obtained in the Obama years, nor the subsequent refinance of such loans, as they are a private matter. I had no role in, or responsibility for, any HUD involvement in any of these investments. I can say that every rigorous process and strict standard of improvement requirements were followed; all were met, fulfilled and inspected.”

RELATED: Lawyer behind Hannity revelation at Cohen hearing speaks

The intensifying spotlight on Hannity places Fox News in the difficult position of backing a host with ties to a man at the center of a probe stretching from law offices in New York all the way to the West Wing. Cohen, of course, saw his office and hotel room raided by federal agents earlier this month after receiving a referral from the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller. Hannity’s bellicose criticism of that action takes on a new dimension with the revelation of his ties to Cohen.

At one point on Sunday morning, CNN and Fox were running simultaneous chyrons on Hannity’s problems. “Should Hannity be worried about seized Cohen docs?” read the script under Brian Stelter’s interview with Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. On Fox, Howard Kurtz spoke with The Wall Street Journal’s Shelby Holiday above a banner proclaiming “Hannity vs Mainstream Media.” Avenatti told Stelter that “the relationship [with Cohen] is going to be far more extensive than Mr. Hannity has led people to believe.”

RELATED: Hannity, Cohen, and the battle for Fox’s soul

Hannity’s value to Fox News is hard to overstate. In the wake of Bill O’Reilly’s exit last year, he has become the face of the network’s evening opinion programming, and has emerged as Donald Trump’s chief television defender. Long criticized by journalists for his conspiracy-mongering and open cheerleading, he has built a huge following that includes his daily radio show. Last week, Fox said that Hannity had the network’s full support, but as the case against Cohen unfolds, Hannity’s relationship with Trump and his embattled fixer are sure to remain a focus on media interest.

Below, more on Hannity’s deepening problems.

  • A lack of transparency: New York’s Margaret Hartmann focuses on the role that HUD played in helping Hannity build his real estate empire, arguing that the host’s lack of transparency deserves more scrutiny, but that Fox probably won’t provide it.
  • From Fox host’s lips to Trump’s ears: CNN producer Lee Alexander put together a compilation of President Trump echoing arguments presented by Fox hosts. There’s plenty of Hannity in the clip.
  • Hannity and Cohen: The New York Times’s Michael Gold looked at Hannity’s public defense of Cohen before their ties were revealed. Copious use of Trump’s favorite phrase, “witch hunt,” highlights those remarks. Meanwhile, Gold’s colleagues Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin reported on Fox’s backing of the host, which they write signifies “the new realities at Trump-era Fox News.
  • Focus on Fox: Even before The Guardian revealed the extent of Hannity’s real estate holdings, The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple argued that Fox News should be facing more pressure to investigate its host. “As important as Hannity’s explanations may be, the word of his employer matters far more,” Wemple writes.
  • Too big to fail?: The Guardian’s Swaine and Dominic Rushe write that Hannity’s omission concerning his relationship to Cohen “just doesn’t matter to Fox.”  Earlier this month, I looked at Fox’s continued ratings dominance even as controversy continues to dog some of the network’s personalities. Fox executives downplayed the tension between opinionators like Hannity and the hard news side of the company, but recent news surely won’t help mend that divide.

Remembering Joan Konner

Friends and family gathered on Friday to celebrate the life of Joan Konner, an essential friend and supporter of CJR. Konner was a former dean of the Columbia Journalism School, as well as a former publisher of CJR, where she remained on the Board of Overseers. She arrived at Columbia after a storied career in broadcasting. She is the winner of 13 Emmy awards and was executive producer of Bill Moyers Journal. Speaking at the memorial service, Moyers remembered Konner as both a pioneer—she was the first woman documentary producer at NBC News—and as a defender of core journalistic values. “Good journalists look for the right questions,” Moyers said, in describing her view of the craft. “People respond overwhelmingly when what we cover illuminates their lives.” Konner is the author of three books, including The Book of I: An Illustrious Collection of Self Reflections, and is survived by her husband, Al Perlmutter and her daughter, Rosemary Steinbaum.

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