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Free the Press

The Death of American Journalism and How to Revive It

Brian J. Karem Sam Donaldson



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Prometheus Books
15 March 2022
While the phrase Fake News may be a recent phenomenon, the relationship between journalists and the politicians they cover has been on a course for disaster for decades. From Richard Nixon's disdain for the press, to Donald Trump's claims that reporters are the enemy of the people, animosity between press and presidency has reached a fever pitch. In Free The Press, renowned journalist Brian J. Karem asks the question How did we get here? And perhaps more importantly, How do we fix it? Blending his experiences as a veteran reporter with trenchant analysis of the erosion of trust between the press and the government over the past 40 years, Free The Press gives readers a unique perspective on the challenges facing journalism as well as the rise of hostility between these institutions. While early presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower enjoyed close relationships with the press, the Vietnam War saw a schism develop that has never fully healed. Since then, each and every president has overseen the withering of relations between the Executive Branch and the so-called Fourth Estate: Ronald Reagan weaponized his partnership with FCC Chairman Mark Fowler to weaken the Fairness Doctrine; George H.W. Bush installed a pool system for reporters covering Operation Desert Storm, co-opting and guiding the work of supposedly independent journalists; Bill Clinton's landmark telecommunications act included harmful regulations regarding the internet and allowed for the rise of media conglomerates; George W. Bush's Patriot Act further stifled a suffocating press; Barack Obama's administration repeatedly used the Espionage Act - a relic of the WWI-era - to prosecute officials and whistle-blowers who talked to journalists. All of this leads directly to Donald Trump's most egregious offenses against the media. Readers also see first-hand Karem's own experience in the newspaper industry where he witnessed buyouts and the end of locally owned and operated newspapers, a behind-the-scenes look at his work as a member of the White House Press Corps, and his work defending the confidentiality of sources and advocacy for shield laws to protect the journalistic pillar of anonymity. But it's not all on the government. The press has hurt itself over the years, too. Corporate media has us following the news of the day for clicks and views rather than pursuing long term stories of impact. Reporters have ceased to frame the narrative and failed to co-opt social media contributions until it was too late. Karem concludes with a three-step plan to save the free press, as well as a comprehensive method to reporting in the White House -and elsewhere - for reporters to regain level footing and work towards repairing the damage done to one of the most important and sacred institutional relationships of our country.
Foreword by:  
Imprint:   Prometheus Books
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 237mm,  Width: 161mm,  Spine: 28mm
Weight:   517g
ISBN:   9781633887664
ISBN 10:   1633887669
Pages:   320
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Brian J. Karem is an award-winning journalist, author, and speaker. Karem currently serves as a television political analyst and is the senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has worked in both newspaper and television as an investigative journalist covering politics, crime, refugee issues, and state and local News. He is the recipient of the National Press Club's Freedom of the Press Award, as well as the prestigious Pieringer Award. He has testified in support of a federal shield law to protect reporters with confidential sources, and is the founder of the First Jailbird's Club, a group of 13 reporters who went to jail to defend the identity of a confidential source. Karem is the author of six books, a member of the White House Press Corps and National Press Club, and launched the popular podcast, Just Ask the Question, in 2018.

Reviews for Free the Press: The Death of American Journalism and How to Revive It

Brian Karem is every bit the old school reporter. Tough, fair, with a dogged pursuit for the truth and a can't-hide-it desire to help the little guy. In Free the Press, Karem takes us on a 40-year journey, explaining in his unique fashion what's happened to the press in this country, how the government and corporate America has screwed with it, and how we got to Donald Trump and his attacks on the press as the enemy of the people. Entertaining, honest, and somewhat troubling, Free the Press does provide some hope, spelling out in a succinct way what needs to be done to keep a free press in America. A must-read for any American who values a free press. - Joe Walsh, former Congressman, Illinois's 8th congressional district Brian Karem's Free The Press depicts a world where Instagram influencers outnumber journalists, and where the last four years have become a harbinger of what's to come. When politicians control the narrative, we have already lost the fight. But apparently, no one told Brian. Free The Press is a great read and an important book. - Chip Franklin, Winner of National Edward R Murrow Award for Writing and talk-show host, KGO radio San Francisco Brian Karem is old school and Free the Press is all about being independent! From his first encounter with a politician (trust me, it's good) to his more sobering efforts to protect his sources, Karem reminds us why a free press is the bedrock of a free people. - Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Brian Karem is one of our very best reporters out there and he's witnessed firsthand how far American journalism has fallen. His gripping new book shines a bright light on how we got here - and how we can get out. Free the Press is mandatory reading for anyone who believes in journalism and in the democracy it serves. - Victor Pickard, author of Democracy Without Journalism? Brian Karem's Free the Press takes us on a lively, fascinating tour of three momentous decades of American journalism. Karem is a fearless reporter who has fought to bring the truth to the public and protect the First Amendment. As this book vividly demonstrates, he has done and seen it all -- from being jailed for protecting a confidential source as a local reporter in Texas to battling the Trump Administration in the White House briefing room and in court. This is a powerful memoir of Karem's own career and freedom of the press in this country. - Ted Boutrous, partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Free the Press is an incisive, personal, and funny book that weaves together two tales: the ups and downs of American journalism and Karem's accomplished, colorful life in that profession. His love of facts-based journalism shines through. His disdain for lies, disinformation, and conspiracies is withering. While lamenting the accelerating challenges to American media, Karem insists that journalism can still be saved - and makes the case that doing so is integral to the preservation of our democracy. - Norman Eisen, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, and chair of the States United Democracy Center Free the Press is part memoir and part political history as Karem takes us on his journey through the bi-partisan dismantling of journalism as a public service and the installation of corporate media that values capitalism over a free press. This book is required reading for every person living in a news desert, for every person cloaked in ignorance while they shout 'fake news, ' and for every student as they learn how press monopolies took down journalism and aided this country's division. Free the Press is a wake-up call served with work instructions to reestablish our press freedoms. - Bonnie Jean Feldkamp, Media Director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and syndicated columnist I first met Brian Karem in the White House briefing room when I tried following up on a question he asked. Brian came over and thanked me, then treated me to lunch. He became a trusted mentor and a dear friend. Free the Press is the seminal explanation of how our business lost its way -- and how we might get it back. - John T. Bennett, longtime White House correspondent and editor, The Washington Examiner Karem has had a unique view of the world for decades as he observes from his unique perch. He gives us a different take on matters that causes us to critically think. This must-read is thought-provoking and forward-leaning. - April Ryan, White House Correspondent, TheGrio, Political Analyst, CNN, and author of Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House Karem makes a powerful case that Trump was just a symptom of the cancer ravaging the independent press in America over the last four decades, and he's right; the disease is caused as much by the media itself as the politicians attacking the first amendment. Karem may not be optimistic about the resurgence of a powerful independent media in this country, but he does offer some provocative ideas for how to attack the problem. Every young reporter should read this book. - Joe Lockhart, former White House Press Secretary

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