266 pages | Buy this book
Part insider tell-all about the day-to-day operation of The Washington Post, part battle narrative documenting the paper’s struggle to survive in a rapidly and radically transforming media landscape, Kindred’s book is primarily a lament: the hard-hitting, deeply reported journalism of the Post’s heyday is under threat in the age of the Internet.
What’s the Big Deal?
In the year leading up to September 2009, 24,500 print-media staffers in the U.S. were laid off, and daily papers in Seattle and Denver shut down their print operations. Need any more proof that print outlets are struggling? Morning Miracle chronicles the inner workings of what was once one of America’s most successful newspapers, now facing declining circulation and profits and a slashed staff. But Miracle argues that while the medium may be dying, quality journalism continues to matter.
Buzz Rating: Whisper
The Post ran a review by the paper’s former deputy metro editor, Rem Rieder, which, unsurprisingly, praises the book’s insider’s take on, well, itself. Politico, one of the many online competitors of the Post, has fawned over the telling, behind-the-scenes tidbits.
One-Breath Author Bio
The Book, in His Words
“It’s about a great newspaper doing its damnedest to get out of this mess alive” (page 8).
Judging by the Cover
With an image of a printing press and a mock-newspaper-page layout, the cover certainly pays homage to old media, but something more melodramatic—say, an image of a weary veteran reporter clutching a notebook—would have better evoked Kindred’s passion for old-school journalism.
Don’t Miss These Bits
1. The book is short on shocking exposés, but Kindred re-creates dramatic behind-the-scenes tensions at the paper. Top among them is a scene from 2003 about the Post’s digital future. Then–managing editor Steve Coll presented the findings of a task force designed to address the paper’s financial problems with, in part, a vision for Washingtonpost.com to reach national and global readers. Washington Post Co. chairman Don Graham rejected the vision (pages 117–26). Whoops. (The Washington Post Co., which owns NEWSWEEK, put the magazine up for sale in early May.)
2. The book is full of romantic musings about the good ol’ days of the newsroom. Here’s a classic example: “This was 1990. It was a golden time in the newspaper business. If the grown-ups in the big office irritated you, you threw a typewriter through a window and followed it up by asking a better paper for a higher-paying job. Back then, newspapers hired good people with the idea of improving the product” (page 85). Aspiring reporters, beware.
There is a body of literature lamenting the demise of “quality” journalism at the hands of the Internet’s 24/7 news cycle and the commercial demands of a flooded media landscape: Losing the News, The Vanishing Newspaper, and The Death and Life of American Journalism. Given that Morning Miracle is a reported account of a leading paper’s response to the print-news crisis, Kindred’s approach stands out.
Make that not-so-hidden: Kindred’s book is an unapologetic valentine to the Post and its reporters.
Swipe This Critique
Kindred celebrates the tactile newsgathering that goes on every day at the Post, and he’s reported the book extremely thoroughly, securing candid interviews with a range of influential figures at the paper. Nonetheless, the overly sentimental tone that creeps into his storytelling threatens his more serious mission.
Prose: Kindred is clearly a news writer. The prose is clean and concise, but occasionally reads like a collage of quotes.
Construction: Sometimes-clunky transitions and a narrative that jumps back and forth in time and space can make for a confusing read.
Aesthetics: The tone is a strange blend of hard-boiled narration and saccharine nostalgia.