The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News (Sheila Weller, 2014)

news sorority

Why did you choose this book?

Well, I didn’t choose this one.  I’ve written before that as a librarian, it is sometimes my job to lead our book discussions.  I drew the straw for this month’s nonfiction pick.  I’m excited to announce, however, that I will be leading all of the fiction book discussions in 2016, so you can expect to see all kinds of books I wouldn’t necessarily choose for myself.  My reading preferences tend to be mystery (especially cozy), fantasy, or historical fiction.  A lot of the books we’ve chosen for our discussions next year are literary fiction.

What’s it about?

It is about women in TV news, as told through the stories of Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour.  This is only partly the case, as I will explain in the review portion of this post.

Categories?

Biography, other nonfiction

Other recommended reads?

Go for other biographies.  Weller has written another called Girls Like Us about 3 women in the music industry.  If you don’t care for this book, but like the format of a discussion through multiple figures, I’ll recommend one of the best books I read for a college course: The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans by Charles Royster.

Review

Many of the participants in our discussion and reviewers online felt that this book read more like tabloid gossip than narrative history/biography.  I’m not sure that bothered me as much as some of the other aspects.  It was a long (450 pages) book and a very dense read.  Weller quotes 200 interviews with “sources” in the news industry, and 35 (17%) of these sources chose to remain anonymous.  Some would say that encourages candid and honest responses, but I personally found that it undermined the author’s credibility and made for a confusing book as she referred multiple times to the same sources with varying physical and professional descriptive words.

I quickly became annoyed with the repeated use of words to characterize the women – specifically sophisticated and beautiful Diane, cute and perky Katie, and exotic Christiane.  Only Christiane emerges from the book as a likable figure.  There were also copious errors – for example, the author states that Guyana is an island (it’s not, it’s part of South America).  Bottom line: I’m not sure how much of the book is fact and how much is fiction and that’s never a good feeling when you pick something up from a nonfiction shelf.

Up next?

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson

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