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Losing the News

Washington and Lee alumnus Alex Jones of the Class of 1968 is a newspaperman at heart — a fourth-generation newspaperman, in fact, from Tennessee. In his new book, Losing the News, Alex explores what is at stake if we lose the fact-based reporting that was once the standard for the news business. On Tuesday, Alex talked about his new book with Terry Gross on the popular National Public Radio show, Fresh Air. You can list to the complete interview at this link where you’ll also find an excerpt from the book. You can also read a transcript of the interview here. Whether you listen or read what Alex has to say, you’ll find that he makes some critically important observations on the news business. One of those points is his distinction between the “news of verification” and the “news of assertion.” As he says in the Fresh Air interview, opinion (the “news of assertion”) is cheap. “You don’t have to go out and report. All you have to do is give your opinion, and especially if you can make it an aggressive and edgy, an angry opinion and gets into a fight with somebody, that makes good television, that makes good commentary, and a lot of people seem to want that. I think that’s where we’re headed right now unless we do something about it.” Alex, currently director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and his wife, Susan Tifft, were awarded honorary degrees by W&L in June, and Alex will be back in Lexington in October to talk about his new book during the Five-Star Generals Reunion.