For an obituary, this is a disturbingly slender book. I looked at it askance for days, unopened on my desk: could the truth be dispatched in around 160 pages (plus notes)? If Michiko Kakutani, well-known former book critic for The New York Times, in possession of a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, can kill it off with such apparent ease, with a flick of the pen, why has it been so hard to nail down all these years?
She dedicates the book to “journalists everywhere working to report the news”. But somehow I wasn’t convinced by this lofty dedication. Seeking reassurance, I turned to Google Scholar and searched for “truth and journalism”: there were 525,000 results. On top of the list rested a journal article by the prolific media scholar Silvio Waisbord about fake news called “Truth Is What Happens to News”. Among his observations: “Conventional notions of news and truth that ground standard journalistic practice are harder to achieve and maintain amid the destabilization of the past hierarchical order.”