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The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media
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The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,422 ratings  ·  311 reviews
Nearly one million weekly listeners trust NPR's Brooke Gladstone to guide them through the distortions and complexities of the modern media. This brilliant radio personality now bursts onto the page as an illustrated character in vivid comics drawn by acclaimed artist Josh Neufeld. The cartoon of Brooke conducts the reader through two millennia of history-from the newspape...more
Hardcover, 172 pages
Published May 23rd 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company
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James Payne
Disappointing. This book is not "visionary," nor is it particularly "opinionated"as it has been billed; it is certainly not a "manifesto" as that implies the book is articulating some idea outside of normal liberal-establishment orthodoxy. And man, you need some outsized blinders on to consider that orthodoxy coherent.

Gladstone starts the book by saying there is nothing "conspiratorial" about mainstream media - a remark I can only imagine is an unnamed naming of Manufacturing Consent, which, wh...more
Stven
Nov 27, 2011 Stven rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Stven by: The New Yorker
A lively and informative book on the history of public media. I have a few quibbles along the way, but I'm willing to ignore them because I'm learning some interesting history, competently arranged to get me from points A and B to points U and V with the dots nicely connected. The trouble is that I totally reject the conclusion Gladstone presents, that "We get the media we deserve."

That's bogus. We the people don't control journalism -- despite the nice point she makes that journalism does spend...more
BirdBrian
Very patchy... I really enjoyed Gladstone's exploration of the history of journalism. The first publication of community news was written by scribes of the Egyptian pharaohs, for PR purposes. Bad events were blamed on pharaoh's enemies, good events were credited to his fair leadership.

Skipping ahead, the book delves into trends and biases in the media.

One interesting tidbit: up to the Civil War, journalists' names didn't appear with their stories in print. All articles, investigative or editori...more
Dan Phillips
I had high hopes for this "media manifesto in comic book form," as it seemed to be very similar in style (both graphically and narratively) to Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. McCloud's book maximized the potential of "sequential art" to explain complex issues in an immediate, simple way. And there are some very clever visual choices in The Influencing Machine that manage the same trick.

But ultimately, I ended up feeling the same way about this book as I do about Brooke Gladstone's better-k...more
Yvonne Powderly
Gladstone is both narrator and visual tour guide, popping up throughout Neufeld's comic panels as both her contemporary self and camouflaged alongside historical figures.

The comic book format permitted me to read and learn about a subject I would not have attempted in a formal book format; the graphic format makes sense as a way to ease the "pain".

Beginning with the Incas, Herodotus, and the Acta Diurna of the Roman Senate, she wends her way to the present. The history’s always interesting, and...more
Joella www.cinjoella.com
This was book 8 for the YALSA Best Books challenge. And yet again it has taken me awhile to write what I thought about it. I think this book has so much information and so many ideas, it just takes time to thoroughly think through everything and digest it all.

So this is a book about media and how it influences (thus the name of the book) the world. It starts from the very basic history about how people learned "news" clear back in the day when ancient civilizations "wrote" things down. Then it...more
Shannon Appelcline
This is one of a weird little medium of books that I quite like: non-fiction books illustrated as comic strips. Scott McCloud's trilogy of books about comics are perhaps the best example nowadays, and pretty close in style to The Influencing Machine, as Gladstone takes a similar fourth-wall-breaking style of talking. It's quite well done and I liked the art (two-toned artwork, colored blue and black by Josh Neufeld) enough that I immediately ordered a book from the library that the artist had do...more
Becky
Graphic novel about media bias and information seeking behavior written by NPR correspondent - pretty much my ideal nonfiction book, but somehow I didn't enjoy this very much.

Perhaps because Gladstone is new to the medium, I found the book suffered greatly from a lack of narrative and structural cohesion. Her apparent thesis in the introduction - that consumers and advertisers cause media bias - did not seem to be the guiding thesis of her discussion, which spanned history, psychology, and perso...more
Miles
This is a terrific primer on media history and one reporter’s take on how average citizens can promote a free, open news environment. Aided by Josh Neufeld’s clever illustrations, Brooke Gladstone takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through media history’s most tenuous moments, setting her sights on the perennial conflict between authoritarian power, which has traditionally sought to suppress non-propagandist news, and the heroic but flawed individuals and organizations who have fought the l...more
Lee
Jun 06, 2011 Lee added it
Engaging and entertaining, but I disagree with the central claim of the book that "We get the media we deserve." Who are "we" and what does it mean for us to "deserve" our media? What is missing is any kind of sustained examination of the specifically economic (as opposed to technological) frameworks within which the media operate and the way those frameworks affect their performance.
Kalen
Not entirely sure what to think of this one just yet. I love the premise but I'm not convinced it was entirely well-written. Having said that, I don't typically read graphic novels or non-fiction so the format took some getting used to and it's possible that was my real challenge.

I laughed when Gladstone cited Douglas Adams' comment that "Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between...more
Matthieutc
This book offers a robust opinion on the state of the media and explains why there is still a lot of work to do but no reason to despair. A lot of insight is gleaned from the history of journalism but also from technology experts like Clay Shirky or Cass Sunstein. The author is also the co-host of On The Media. Here are my lecture notes.

# The Influencing Machine

The influencing machine is a typical invention of the mind that is trying to explain in a somewhat paranoiac way how ideas are spreading...more
Lisa
Brooke Gladstone is wonderful. And Josh Neufield is an able illustrator/ comic artist. If each could be judged apart from one another, I would rate them both much more highly on their individual merits.

Unfortunately, I think Gladstone should have just written a proper book. The writing achieves its aim of balancing the light and entertaining with the heavy and intellectual but when rendered as a comic it starts to feel super heavy and dense. (A woman next to me at a coffee shop, who clearly rea...more
Agile Kindergarten
Gladstone used graphic non-fiction to deftly communicate the historical, psychological and sociological truths of the media's influence in society. From Caesar's Acta Diurna, the first daily news which pressured the Roman Senators to be accountable (and reminiscent of the Daily Stand-Up Meeting) to the digitally borne diseases stemming from the homophily echo chamber (where people only consume media "facts" that substantiate their entrenched belief systems resulting in polarization), our relatio...more
Nathan
Newspapers (now broadened to "the media") influence public opinion and the course of political affairs. This deft little book tells the story of media and influence, historically and technologically, and manages to be not just readable but also extremely difficult to put down. I read it in one sitting and got a lot from it. It is easy to read because it is both well-written and well-illustrated--most of the book is in the form of a comic: panels, pictures, captions. The potentially dry topics ar...more
Aneesa
An interesting history of journalism, but I don't think Gladstone quite proves her point that the readers control journalism, despite the fact that journalists to varying degrees at different times in history try to give the people what they want (as opposed to what they need), keeping to the "sweet spot" of "legitimate controversy" but away from the sphere of "deviance," which "the mainstream of society rejects as unworthy of being heard." Perhaps therein lies the problem--she equates "us" with...more
Nichole
Informational
Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine is a graphic novel that is crammed with so much useful information while remaining a pleasure to read the entire time due to its format. If the book was written strictly in text, the reader might be bored, but due to the entertaining comics, it manages to hold the reader’s attention and educate at the same time. Gladstone’s purpose with The Influencing Machine is to explain why the media is the way is it and how it got that way. She teaches...more
Lisa
Brooke Gladstone gave us all a lot to think about in this book, but I don't think that I agree with her thesis that the media is influenced by public opinion. Yes, there are thousands of blogs and websites but they don't have the power that TV has. As they say, a picture can be worth a thousand words - especially when you keep seeing it over and over again. I think to a large extent, the established media decides what events are important for us to think about by what they decide to talk about....more
Ruth
I enjoyed the historical quotes and Neufeld's renderings of historical incidents and portraits of historical figures--especially Mark Twain, for some reason.
Kelly
A must-read for media junkies and anyone who loves to complain about bias and news coverage. It's much more complicated than you think: "We get the media we deserve." Highlights: the 8 different kinds of bias (because plain old "political bias" is "boring"), the "doughnut" analogy that describes the time-relative perceptions of what should be covered by the news media and what is "fact" and need not be covered, and Gladstone's willingness to call poppycock even on the media personalities who wer...more
Adam
"Adorable" is not usually word you use for media criticism. This book, though, is adorable. Gladstone uses the graphic novel format to present an excellent introduction to media literacy, including the history of the press and a very clear and concise review of media and reader biases.

It's particularly refreshing to find a critic who is equally scathing about biased reporting from the Right and the Left. Most folks who write about media bias are pushing one agenda or the other, but Gladstone do...more
Oswego Public Library District
This nonfiction graphic novel provides great insight into the role of the media as it relates to politics, war coverage, social issues, and more. Brooke Gladstone is an award-winning reporter, editor and co-host for NPR. Here she is a tour guide through history as she discusses the role of bias, fairness and influence by the media. Chatty and witty in style, this is written by someone who works in that field and wants to equip readers with a better understanding of how people consume information...more
Bruce
Acknowledging that she wanted to write a comic book about the media, because she felt that “writing in bubbles would be easier [than a conventional book in text], more like radio.” Gladstone, Host and Managing Editor of the National Public Radio program, "On the Media," recruited cartoonist Neufeld, the author and illustrator of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, to work with her on the book. As far as the ease of composing a work written in speech balloons, she goes on to admit, “It was more l...more
Jen
Aug 15, 2014 Jen added it
I found out about this book because my high school reads another book by the illustrator, Josh Neufeld, called A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. I picked it out of our bookroom because I thought, Oh, cool... we talk about Katrina in a case study over federalism.

Flip to the back: the notes on the author point out The Influencing Machine.

It is an incredibly quick read... very witty and direct. And on point. For instance:

The book opens with a really great overview of media history that is perf...more
Jonathan Hiskes
A lucid, visual tour of media history and bias. Thesis: We get the media we deserve; mass media reflects its society; the things we don't like about the media are the things we don't like about society at large. Also, most things we loathe about the American media (biases, corruption, sensationalism, vapidity, TV anchors' hair) were present at the nation's founding. The illustrated format works well. If I ever taught high school civics or college communications, I'd use this.
Andrew John Pixton
This was really good and really important. It's something I can really use. There's a perception that I've had and many are still guilty of that the media and particularly news reporting is controlled by the corporations that own them. Brooke Gladstone of NPR brilliantly argues that while there is some of that, they're controlled more by us, the consumers. Of course with this being capitalism, everything is consumer driven. News reporters are inclined to a certain thing that they think we want....more
Erin Hartshorn
This book covers media from the invention of the alphabet to neurological implants and the singularity, discussing topics such as the difference between objectivity and transparency and the history of war-time reporting, creating a highly engaging narrative. I definitely recommend it to everyone who consumes the news (even if -- or perhaps especially if -- they're not fans of NPR).
Donna
I enjoyed this book which describes our relationship to the media as well as takes to task reporters and news outlets for what they choose to report. Government censorship of the media is also discussed as well as the pros and cons of embedded reporters with military units. This book helps one think...always a good thing...and hopefully will cause reporters to think as well.
Marc
A very insightful look at how media works on every level - how it shapes us while we shape it, as well as how we perceive it. There's a lot to think about here, and the book is throughly researched, offering many interesting facts and theories, with sources to back them up. One can learn a lot about the human mind with this book, as research on how we learn and process information is an integral part of the discussion, and probably my favourite. The illustrations are also very nice, and do a goo...more
Kris
Great art and thoughtful, funny content about the news, media, the Internet and the future of information. Some of this I'd read before but never seen it presented in as creative a manner. A relatively quick, yet meaningful, read.
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Brooke Gladstone is cohost of NPR's On the Media and a former senior editor at Weekend Edition and All Things Considered. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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“Objectivity works to repel the attacks of critics, like a kind of ethical pepper spray.” 1 likes
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