I apologize for the lapse in posting; my most recent read has led me to discover that I read non-fiction books approximately 3x slower than the Fiction ones I digest on a weekly basis. However, the book I am going to review is certainly worth the wait.
A few months back, someone recommended The News Sorority in a Facebook post begging for new books. I initially wrote it off as fluffy fiction about sorority sisters, which certainly has a time and place—just not on my bookshelf (actually, that’s a lie, I kind of want to read Dirty Rush. Elizabeth Banks did recommend it, after all, and she went to Penn, so she’s, like, smart.). Anyways, I chose to ignore the suggestion until a few weeks ago, when I was on the verge of finishing The Rocks and looking for something a bit more serious to sustain me. I was in Cambridge, so after wandering into the Harvard bookstore and discovering the tome on their shelves, came to the conclusion that if it was good enough for the curators of the Coop, it was good enough for me. It was a hefty book, both in weight and price tag ($30 hardcovers always seem justified in the moment you pay for them at the cashier, and ridiculous a week later when you have back problems from carrying them on your commute), and, at well over 400 pages, quite the commitment. That being said, the subtitle on the cover—it’s official full title is The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour, and The (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Rise of Women in TV News—was promising, and certainly not about an actual sorority, so I set out and got started.
I was hooked from the beginning, which may not be apparent given the length of time I’ve taken to read the book, but that’s simply because I reread many lines twice, determined to hang on to every word. The triple biography chronicles the respective rise of the three women (Diane, Katie, and Christiane, ICYMI above) from their humble beginnings in Louisville, Arlington, and Tehran. Since I am a generation or two younger than these women, I’ve operated under the assumption that they’ve been famous forever. Not the case. All of them have encountered significant roadblocks—Christiane, especially, as she never “fit the mold” of a typical newscaster and did not receive an elite education or excel in school—to arrive at the positions of prominence they hold today. The story spares no detail, and, as the biography is unauthorized, it certainly includes quite a few malicious gossipy assertions about each woman—“Diane gets people she dislikes fired and refuses to take the blame, Katie has a major mean streak, Christiane won’t let anyone edit her work”—whether or not any of these are true, they certainly don’t speak for the overall tone of the book. Author Sheila Weller paints a flattering portrait of the women that highlights their hard work and significant contributions to journalism as a whole. The book is comprehensive and fascinating—and the public agrees: an elderly man standing behind me on the subway last week tapped me on the shoulder, asked me if he could take a picture of the book so he could purchase it later, proclaimed that “women in news are epic,” and then inquired as to why the inimitable Barbara Walters wasn’t included. Note to Sheila Weller: perhaps a biography on Babs should be in pipeline?