Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World At War

What happens when you’re a foreign correspondent, and see the coming of a war – one that America, and much of Europe stubbornly refuse to see? Last Call at the Hotel Imperial, by Deborah Cohen, Richard W. Leopold Professor of History at Northwestern University, tells the story of four European-based American journalists: the Chicago Sun-Times’ John Gunther, Hearst reporter H.R. Knickerbocker, author and journalist Jimmy Sheehan, and the New York Herald Tribune‘s Dorothy Thompson. Vienna’s Hotel Imperial was their watering hole, but their beat was Berlin, Paris, Rome – anywhere where Europe’s slow descent into madness could be documented. It was the 1920s and 30s, as first Mussolini and then Hitler came to power. The four journalist, rivals yet friends, jockeyed for access to interviews in their effort to tell a complacent world that the peace that followed World War I might not hold. Mussolini was the easy interview to get – Knickerbocker alone met with him four times – while Hitler was elusive. Dorothy Thompson finally managed to interview him, and later became the first American correspondent to get thrown out of Germany. Thompson also wrangled an interview with Leon Trotsky, while finding time along the way to leave her husband and marry the Nobel-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis. The book exposes personal and political intrigue, while highlighting the best of foreign reporting. It’s a true page turner, the events and personalities unfolding as if in a novel, although it is, in face, a chronicle of a world sliding towards all-out war.

Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency

In Republic of Spin―a vibrant history covering more than one hundred years of politics―presidential historian David Greenberg recounts the rise of the White House spin machine, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama. His sweeping, startling narrative takes us behind the scenes to see how the tools and techniques of image making and message craft work. We meet Woodrow Wilson convening the first White House press conference, Franklin Roosevelt huddling with his private pollsters, Ronald Reagan’s aides crafting his nightly news sound bites, and George W. Bush staging his “Mission Accomplished” photo-op. We meet, too, the backstage visionaries who pioneered new ways of gauging public opinion and mastering the media―figures like George Cortelyou, TR’s brilliantly efficient press manager; 1920s ad whiz Bruce Barton; Robert Montgomery, Dwight Eisenhower’s canny TV coach; and of course the key spinmeisters of our own times, from Roger Ailes to David Axelrod.

Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion

Holzer shows us an activist Lincoln through journalists who covered him from his start through to the night of his assassination—when one reporter ran to the box where Lincoln was shot and emerged to write the story covered with blood. In a wholly original way, Holzer shows us politicized newspaper editors battling for power, and a masterly president using the press to speak directly to the people and shape the nation.

The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know about Itself

Andrew Pettegree investigates who controlled the news and who reported it; the use of news as a tool of political protest and religious reform; issues of privacy and titillation; the persistent need for news to be current and journalists trustworthy; and people’s changed sense of themselves as they experienced newly opened windows on the world. By the close of the eighteenth century, Pettegree concludes, transmission of news had become so efficient and widespread that European citizens—now aware of wars, revolutions, crime, disasters, scandals, and other events—were poised to emerge as actors in the great events unfolding around them.

The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril

Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post, and Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor and senior correspondent, report on a growing crisis in American journalism. From the corporatization that leads media moguls to slash content for profit, to newsrooms that ignore global crises to report on personal entertainment, these veteran journalists chronicle an erosion of independent, relevant journalism. In the process, they make clear why incorruptible reporting is crucial to American society. Rooted in interviews and first-hand accounts, the authors take us inside the politically charged world of one of America’s powerful institutions, the media.