Stop Saying Journalists Shouldn’t Save Their Scoops For Their Books
Do you want to find out what happened? You have to wait. Sorry, that’s how it works.
One of the best books I’ve read in the last year is Carol Leonnig’s and Philip Rucker’s I Alone Can Fix It, a detailed, intimate, absolutely terrifying look at the Trump administration’s disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We all lived through it, of course, but the book has incredible details of just how incompetent — and even, strangely, hostile — the response was. Reading it made me honestly surprised that there are as many of us alive as there are right now … and infinitely grateful that Covid-19 itself was not worse.
But the greatest benefit of reading the book in 2022? The fact that it’s a book. Reading it now, in a longform piece of literary journalism, allows perspective on everything that happened, gives us the opportunity to look back on it from our current perch. It actually provides the illusion, in fact, that it happened a long time ago. Reading about how moronic, and vengeful, Trump and his cronies’ reactions were to a once-in-a-century pandemic from the distance of a book made me feel like it had happened a lot longer ago than it really had. It let me know what was going on back then, so I could process it now. If its revelations would have been part of the daily news firehose, it would have flown right past me. Later — now — I was able to absorb it.
One of the strangest things about our give-us-all-the-news-right-now discourse is the way many of us respond to books like Leonnig’s and Rucker’s: Rather than absorb those scoops in the bigger-picture context a book provides, we just get angry that we didn’t know about them sooner. You’ve seen this a ton in the coverage of another scoop-fest, Jonathan Martin’s and Alexander Burns’ “This Will Not Pass,” a look back at the 2020 election and Trump’s attempts to spread his Big Lie that he did not lose the election. The promotion of the book has dropped scoop after scoop, from the fact that Trump wanted to shoot protestors (!) to the fact that he wanted to shoot missiles into Mexico (!!) to, presumably, that he used to drown puppies on the White House lawn. (We may have to wait for the paperback for that one.) But this has led to anger among some…