Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts

by David E. McCraw

Book, 2019


All Points Books (2019), 304 pages


"David E. McGraw recounts his experiences as the top newsroom lawyer for The New York Times during the most turbulent era for journalism in generations. In October 2016, Donald Trump's lawyers demanded that The New York Times retract an article about two women who accused the then presidential candidate of touching them inappropriately. David E. McCraw sent a scathing letter of refusal that dismissed the libel claim, defended the reporters' work on the article, and championed the rights of the women sharing their story as a cornerstone of American democracy. His letter went viral, embraced by liberals as an anti-Trump message and by women as a voice against sexual harassment. McGraw's intent wasn't partisan or political, but to stand against any individual or administration trying to suppress journalists from reporting the truth, and he found himself hailed as a hero of press freedom. With President Trump's declaration of the media as 'the enemy of the American people' and a rallying cry from increasingly volatile quarters dismissing reports as 'fake news,' protecting the First Amendment's freedom of the press has never been more important in the country's history. [This book] shares McGraw's battle experiences as The Times's Deputy General Counsel since 2002, leading the paper's fight for freedom of information, defending it against libel suits, and providing legal counsel to the reporters breaking the biggest stories. From Hillary Clinton's email investigation to Trump's tax returns, McGraw is at the center of the editors' decisions about what news is fit to print. An exclusive look inside the hard legal decisions behind some of the Times's most controversial and impactful stories of the twenty-first century, McGraw's memoir is not only a captivating narrative of the nation's best journalists in the trenches but a love letter celebrating freedom of the press."--Dust jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Susan.Macura
The author is an attorney for the New York Times who provides the reader with an inside look at how decisions are made as to what to publish. It is an inspiring look at how important a free press is to our democracy. McCraw has dealt with all types of legal issues associated with his post, from
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libel suits to the detaining or kidnapping of reporters overseas in foreign countries. He has an important position, especially in these days of fake news. It is good to know that people are like this in the trenches fighting for our right to have information on our government.
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LibraryThing member 1Randal
An engaging read about the state of journalism today, and of the threats to the freedom of the press. The author, in his position as Deputy General Counsel to the New York Times (NYT), is in the perfect position to write this book. He has witnessed so much in his career.
The book covers the events
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that have occurred during the NYT's history. But where it really shines is in describing the current battles with Donald Trump. Thank God for McCraw and the NYT, or else we might not have any freedom of the press left!
Great read for people interested in the Constitution, journalism, the law, or current events.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts, David E. McCraw, Author; Narrators, Stephen Graybill, David E. McCraw
Some books are meant to inform and some are meant to influence the reader’s opinions on specific subjects. Some are meant to do both. This
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book is meant to influence the reader’s opinions, only, in my opinion. The title pretty much indicates that from the get-go. There is a basic premise presented and that is that freedom of the press is being threatened, and it is being threatened by one individual who is smeared throughout this book without the author taking any ownership of his industry’s guilt in creating the problem. He does not truly deal with the fact that the media has become an arm of the left, supporting their efforts with positive articles while writing more than 90% of the articles on President Trump, in a negative way, and often printing only criticisms or salacious news, even if false or improperly vetted. Although the book appears to be masquerading as an expose on the way journalism has been tarnished, albeit often by its own presentation of incorrect information, this book seems to be more of an honorarium for the author. It concentrates on the author’s career and cases, but mostly covers how the news has been handled in the era of Trump.
When information is presented, the right side of the political spectrum is tainted and the left side is sainted by the author. He makes it pretty plain that he is anti-Trump with his choice of facts.
Although he covers many issues, little attention, if any, is devoted to the accomplishments of the President. Most everything he covers is treated negatively, in the same way the paper has proceeded over the term of Trump’s Presidency. One would think that Trump had accomplished nothing during his term. That would be a false premise, but it is what the author seems to want the reader to believe. To him, Trump is merely an instigator, a loudmouth, a crude dictator, a spoiler who is destroying the country, and while Trump has accomplished more for the economy and civil rights than any President in recent history, one would not know that from reading this lawyers explanation of the years he served as lawyer to the Times and presented news about Trump.
You would think that the President, from McCraw’s description, implications, suggestions and tone of voice, is a failure. He is guilty of doing what the paper has been doing to earn it the reputation of “fake news”. Yet President Trump has instituted prison reform, education reform, Veteran’s administration reform, immigration reform, has appointed judges, renegotiated trade deals, renegotiated Nato contributions, reinvigorated manufacturing in the United States, reduced income taxes for most citizens who pay taxes, made our military stronger, reinforced respect for our police officers and other public servants in spite of the obstruction from the opposition, altered laws so that college students may not be falsely accused as easily, reduced the unemployment rate especially for minorities, presided over a steadily rising stock market hitting never before target numbers, met with and welcomed many foreign leaders to the White House, and more, but this does not shout out from the pages of the New York Times or other left leaning publications.
Instead, this book seems to honor the author for his accomplishments and his effort to present and protect what he sees as the truth, to the public, regardless of the harm it might cause or whether or not it has been properly researched and proven to be true. Therefore, McCraw finds it easy to denigrate the President by allowing the news to point to his inevitable constant wrongdoings. Even when it has been proven largely false, as with the Mueller Report, the news remained largely negative about him.
McCraw rails against the President’s attacks on the news media but does not accept the responsibility of his own paper’s slanted coverage. He does not recognize that the newspaper has become an arm of the left and may be influencing our judgment, knowledge and elections unfairly. He presents himself as a fighter for the freedom of the press, but he approves of a press that is biased and does not deal with this President fairly. The reputation of “fake news” has been earned by the presentation of the news on the pages of the Times, which often has had to be retracted because the primary goal seemed to smear the President and capture a headline and an audience. The game of gotcha was front and center in his book, and yes, he was proud that they had played that game.
Yes, the President does embellish, or perhaps, as some say, he lies. Certainly this author believes that. But then, what has the Times done by presenting false stories, rumors and anonymous revelations? Haven’t they lied, as well? Often they post a retraction, but who notices that after a screaming, sensational headline smearing the President. The damage has been done.
On these pages, you won’t find an admission of the newspaper being one sided in its presentation; you won’t find an admission of guilt because the purpose of this book is not to present facts but to persuade readers not to vote for the man McCraw believes is a dishonest and flawed President. He was disappointed with the results of the election. It shouts that message loud and clear on the pages, and therein “lies the rub”, for the newsaper has taken to presenting the news in a partly dishonest way, insinuating issues that may not exist in order to present and support left leaning opinion. McCraw and the paper, at times, seem to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome. If Trump was covered more fairly and the papers were not only looking for crimes and missteps, they would have a far more likeable and manageable President to cover; perhaps he would be a President who didn’t need to tweet ad nauseum.
The author of this book is Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at The New York Times. He has also worked for other ultra liberal outlets. This book concentrates its story on the time he worked during what he terms a turbulent time, the time of Trump. It is read partly by himself and partly by a paid narrator. The reading is sometimes snarky, sometimes very nasty and tainted with emotion meant to subtly lead the reader in one direction or another, and always it is in the direction of an anti-Trump narrative. There is little attempt to explain anything to the reader about the reason for the moniker “Fake News”, or to take responsibility for it, but rather it feels like a hatchet job to smear President Trump and change the course of history by working to have him impeached and to negate the previous election, because he and other liberals are unhappy with the results. The publishing industry is liberal, it has been for a long time, but today it is no longer a news industry, it seems to have morphed into an opinion factory searching for negative news to print about anything Trump.
I did not include specifics because I did not want to encourage the negativity coming from this book. Regardless of the subject, even when Trump was praised and the reader had a ray of hope that it was an honest review, McCraw found a way to slant and twist the information to make it ultimately negative.
The efforts of the left are most often painted as virtuous and laudable while those on the right are inevitably characterized as incompetent, unworthy, or unsatisfactory. I found this book to be a one-sided opinion from a left leaning author with a bully pulpit. It is obvious that it is meant to be a hatchet job against the President of the United States. Opinions run rampant on the pages with cherry picked facts and tales. Although the book is about more than Trump, the discontent with him is obvious which means that this book will be adored by liberals and rejected by conservatives.
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LibraryThing member fmclellan
Very interesting behind-the-scenes look at events not at all behind the scenes. If you care about the First Amendment or the future of newspapers, this is a must-read.




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