WHO DECIDES WHICH FACTS ARE TRUE?

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist with a history of self-promotion, published a paper with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The media seized hold of the story and, in the process, helped to launch one of the most devastating health scares ever. In the years to come Wakefield would be revealed as a profiteer in league with class-action lawyers, and he would eventually lose his medical license. Meanwhile one study after another failed to find any link between childhood vaccines and autism.

Yet the myth that vaccines somehow cause developmental disorders lives on. Despite the lack of corroborating evidence, it has been popularized by media personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy and legitimized by journalists who claim that they are just being fair to “both sides” of an issue about which there is little debate. Meanwhile millions of dollars have been diverted from potential breakthroughs in autism research, families have spent their savings on ineffective “miracle cures,” and declining vaccination rates have led to outbreaks of deadly illnesses like Hib, measles, and whooping cough. Most tragic of all is the increasing number of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In The Panic Virus Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? The fascinating answer helps explain everything from the persistence of conspiracy theories about 9/11 to the appeal of talk-show hosts who demand that President Obama “prove” he was born in America.

The Panic Virus is a riveting and sometimes heart-breaking medical detective story that explores the limits of rational thought. It is the ultimate cautionary tale for our time.
When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series on October 27, 2004, they made history. Their stunning comeback against the New York Yankees and their four-game annihilation of the St. Louis Cardinals capped one of the most thrilling postseason runs ever. The World Series victory-Boston's first in 86 years-came less than three years after John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team from the Yawkey Trust and forever changed the way the Red Sox operated on and off the field.

Seth Mnookin was given access never before granted to a reporter in the history of organized sports. He had a key to Fenway Park and a desk in the team's front office. He spent weekends talking business with John Henry and afternoons in the clubhouse with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. He learned never-before-told details of the team's Thanksgiving Day wooing of Curt Schilling, the jealousy Nomar Garciaparra felt toward better-paid teammates, and the anxiety that impelled Pedro Martinez to insist that the Red Sox guarantee his future. He was there when general manager Theo Epstein's frustration over the organization's ceaseless drive for more media coverage and new revenue streams collided with his fracturing relationship with CEO Larry Lucchino. The resulting narrative -- juicy, gripping, and overflowing with thrilling detail -- reveals how a savvy sports organization tries to stay on top while under the relentless scrutiny of the country's most voracious sportswriters and baseball's most demanding fans.

Drawn from hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews and a year with the team, Feeding the Monster shows as no book ever has before what it means to buy, sell, run, and be part of a major league sports team in America.
On May 11, 2003, The New York Times devoted four pages of its Sunday paper to the deceptions of Jayson Blair, a mediocre former Times reporter who had made up stories, faked datelines, and plagiarized on a massive scale. The fallout from the Blair scandal rocked the Times to its core and revealed fault lines in a fractious newsroom that was already close to open revolt.

Staffers were furious–about the perception that management had given Blair more leeway because he was black, about the special treatment of favored correspondents, and most of all about the shoddy reporting that was infecting the most revered newspaper in the world. Within a month, Howell Raines, the imperious executive editor who had taken office less than a week before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001–and helped lead the paper to a record six Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of the attacks–had been forced out of his job.

Having gained unprecedented access to the reporters who conducted the Times’s internal investigation, top newsroom executives, and dozens of Times editors, former Newsweek senior writer Seth Mnookin lets us read all about it–the story behind the biggest journalistic scam of our era and the profound implications of the scandal for the rapidly changing world of American journalism.

It’s a true tale that reads like Greek drama, with the most revered of American institutions attempting to overcome the crippling effects of a leader’s blinding narcissism and a low-level reporter’s sociopathic deceptions. Hard News will shape how we understand and judge the media for years to come.


From the Hardcover edition.
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