Newspaper Writers as Novelists

Which I mean in a good way: that is, writers who reveal their eye for the telling phrase and the memorable detail. Here is a paragraph to notice, from the latest NYT wrap-up of the long-festering corruption within News Corp:

>>Mr. Murdoch was attending a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in early July when it became clear that the latest eruption of the hacking scandal was not, as he first thought, a passing problem. According to a person briefed on the conversation, he proposed to one senior executive that he "fly commercial to London," so he might be seen as man of the people.<<

The last few words of the passage amounts to a merciless and unforgettable twist of the knife, in the guise of an innocent explanatory phrase. Congratulations to Jo Becker and Ravi Somaiya, whose bylines are on the story, and anyone else involved in the chronicle. Story as a whole has a lot of other riveting details too.

Notes to the young: this is the first story in memory that recreates the effect of living through Watergate. The revelations don't stop, what would have seemed unimaginable fantasy a week ago is hard news today, and there is no obvious firebreak ahead that will bring the disclosures to an end. I suspect that some people on the other end of the revelations have thought about the parallel too.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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