Earlier this year I was sent an advanced copy of Newsreal: A View Through the Lens When… and I finally had the time to finish reading it yesterday so I wanted to share a few thoughts on the book with you.
Newsreal is written by Tim Ortman and he writes about starting out his career as an TV news cameraman eventually becoming an acclaimed and awarding winning one. While his career has spanned decades, the book focuses on the seven years he spent in the foreign news pool for NBC. I was really interested in reading this book because, if you didn’t know, I’m really in to keeping up with the news – especially political news, so I thought this would be a really interesting read to learn about some of Tim’s experiences and a behind the scenes look at the news.
As anticipated, I did really enjoy the book. At over 300 pages, I was able to get through it quickly (once I had the time to read it) because it really held my attention, but I would add that if you’re not interested in the news at all then this might be boring for you. It was interesting to see how quickly Tim rose through the ranks at NBC. He started at a local affiliate after college in Ohio before moving on to Chicago for NBC and before long he was transferred to Bonn, Germany to work in the Foreign Press Corps before eventually moving on to the Rome bureau as a cameraman. He traveled the world and saw so many things like the war in Beirut, the rise and falls of multiple dictators and communism, and more before returning stateside.
While I didn’t always find Tim likeable – he made some really questionable personal life choices – I have to commend him for being honest and not trying to omit major things to make himself look better. He could’ve left things out since they didn’t directly have to do with his career, so I’ll give him credit for his honesty even if it didn’t make me like him much at times! With that being said, the things he experienced were out of this world and with so many of the things he saw and lived through he had become so used to it, it was like these incredible and dangerous things became ordinary. At one point in the book, he was talking about a few vacation days he had and instead of going somewhere you know, not war torn, he went to Beirut to visit his “friend” and says, “We laid by the pool. Took leisurely walks. Had romantic dinners that were occasionally interrupted by car bombings and artillery fire. It was like a week in Nice or Barcelona…just noisier”.
He writes a lot about how covering the news in all different parts of the world makes you realize how small the world really is. So many people fight over our differences, but humans can connect to each other on so many levels – more than they realize. It is the responsibility of the news media to share things going on around the world that we may have no idea about – to inform us, so we can all try to make the world a better place. For example, when covering the famine in Ethiopia in the 80s, he writes, “That’s the way the system was meant to operate. The news media reports on an alarming crisis. A wealthy and benevolent world joins forces to provide a solution. It’s a simplistic equation, but one that appropriately describes the work done by countless news teams on countless stories like the one from Northeast Africa.”
Lastly, I really liked that Tim touched on the whole “fake news” frenzy going around since our new president came in to office.
But at it’s heart, a story is either true or false, not fake. If it’s false, if someone lied, there are laws, courts, and jails awaiting the offenders. But simply disagreeing with or not liking what you read or hear doesn’t make it fake. And to malign an entire industry like the news media, so valuable to our free society, over the disagreement of a news report or reports, is a grotesque distortion of values and truth.
If you are in to the news and/or would like a glimpse in to what the news world was like in the 80s from the perspective of a cameraman then I think you’d really enjoy Newsreal!
*This book was provided to me complimentary, but all opinions are my own.”