Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bitten By The Hand That Feeds You

Brian Stelter Gets Cover of NYT Magazine, Then Gets Trashed in Daily Paper

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the supposedly juicy revelations in Top of the Morning, the new book about morning show wars from New York Times TV news whiz kid Brian Stelter.

The book was excerpted in the Times Magazine on Sunday, and I found that piece to be a compelling read. A lot of dirt without too much smarm--at least from Stelter. His numerous unnamed sources are another deal. I have not read the whole book yet, and some reviewers are telling me not to bother. One of them comes from a particularly interesting place--the Times itself.

In today's Times, former Dallas Morning News TV critic Ed Bark reviews the book--the Times, for obvious reasons, goes outside its fold to review books written by its staffers--and finds Stelter and his prose very much lacking.

"Mr. Stelter seems to throw out verbiage mainly for his own amusement. His run-on riffs reach the point where he himself ends one big gulp by mentioning a list “longer even than this sentence.”
As sentences go, it’s a veritable life imprisonment, lasting for 109 words. That’s three words more than the mood-setting second sentence of this book, in which Mr. Bell is said to experience “a growing warmth that spread through his broad bosom like the aftereffect of a double jigger of single-malt scotch,” etc."
Ouch. So give the Times credit for allowing for an opposing view about one of its wunderkinds on its own pages. Bark is not alone in his sentiments.
Henry Goldblatt in Entertainment Weekly graded Top of the Morning with a "C," who accuses Stelter of having a vendetta against Matt Lauer--who wouldn't talk to Stelter--over how he treated Ann Curry during the "Today" mess that led to her ouster (Curry also clammed up). But:
"Just as disturbing are Stelter’s Hemingwayesque sentences (in length, not substance), hackneyed analogies (Today is Coke! Good Morning America is Pepsi!), and antipathy for the medium he covers (“Wisely — not a word you will see all that often in a book about television…”).
Then there's Andy Lewis in The Hollywood Reporter , who dings Stelter for his "purple prose" and "love of gossip."

Maybe the book isn't all it's cracked up to be. Or, maybe there are a lot of people in the biz who are jealous of Stelter, who founded a well-read blog--TV Newser--at an impossibly young age, and at just 27, files more stories to the Times than just about any other reporter. That could be the topic for another book, though not one Stelter should think about writing.

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