STARRED REVIEW
March 12, 2019

Truth in Our Times

By David E. McCraw

Journalists for the New York Times often break major news stories that enlighten readers but upset government officials and others in positions of power. Before those stories appear in the paper, they are shown to the newsroom lawyer, David E. McCraw, deputy general counsel of the Times.

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Journalists for the New York Times often break major news stories that enlighten readers but upset government officials and others in positions of power. Before those stories appear in the paper, they are shown to the newsroom lawyer, David E. McCraw, deputy general counsel of the Times. In his eye-opening, stimulating and very readable Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts, McCraw takes us behind the scenes to show how difficult legal decisions were made in reporting sensitive stories. McCraw, who has a background in journalism, relates his wide-ranging experiences with verve as he gives editors and reporters his best judgment on what the law allows the paper to do.

There were eight perplexing years of dealing with investigations of leaks in the Obama administration, during which nine government employees or contractors suspected of leaking classified information to the media were prosecuted (compared to three such prosecutions in the preceding 40 years). And then, as candidate and president, Donald Trump presented additional and unique challenges. By calling the press “the enemy of the people” which peddles “fake news,” he incited his crowds to turn on the press. Dealing with threats against journalists became a routine part of McCraw’s work life. In the past two years of the Trump administration, he came to see that the fight for press freedom “was going to be a fight about the very nature of truth, about who could capture the hearts and minds of the American people, about who got heard and who got believed.”

McCraw discusses the importance of reporting the truth no matter what, and how to make the distinction between serving readers and catering to them. He also covers how hard that balance is to strike in a polarized country; the difficulties of getting documents from the federal government through the Freedom of Information Act; and how the Times dealt with secret documents from the Pentagon and State Department to WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden’s leaked files from the National Security Agency.

This important book should be of interest to all citizens concerned about press freedom in the U.S. in the current political climate.

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Truth in Our Times

Truth in Our Times

By David E. McCraw
All Points Books
ISBN 9781250184429

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