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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  335 ratings  ·  62 reviews
David E. McCraw 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, when Donald Trump's lawyer demanded that The New York Times retract an article focused on two women that accused Trump of touching them inappropriately, David McCraw's scathing letter of refusal went viral
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by All Points Books
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Will Byrnes
The war over press freedom was not going to be a fight about changing America’s laws. It was going to be a fight about the very nature of truth…I should have seen it coming. In a decade and a half at The Times I had had my moments with Trump and his lawyers. I knew how they played the game.
All the News That’s Fit to Print (which should be changed, BTW, to add “or Post” or substitute “Fit to Run”to accommodate the fact that materials these days might be posted without ever being actually
David E. McCraw is an attorney. He has spent the past fifteen years as the deputy general counsel for the New York Times. The book is a combination of a memoir, politics and history. McCraw discusses his perceived threats to the first amendment. He also goes into legal cases such as New York Times Company v Sullivan which made suing the press for libel more difficult. He also covers Wikileaks and Edward Snowden. Of course, he discusses the current political situation in Washington, D.C.

The book
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is written in spirit of an old-time newspaper man regaling cackling, amused, red-nosed patrons in a smoke-filled, dimly-lit bar with personal and singular stories of powerful forces arrayed against a humble man who plays it as though his power is negligible. David E. McCraw may be a down-home guy…as Trump says, he has a soothing, bedroom manner…but his reach is hardly negligible. Don’t be fooled.

Reading this book is every bit as fun as finding oneself under the influence…of a
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am in process of writing a 1,000-1,250 word review for publication in a weekly indie because I consider this book a must-read for those nervous about the president's attempts to control his administration's narrative by giving "alternative facts" and constantly bullying the press (all major news organizations besides Fox News), including, e.g., twice condemning the press as " the enemy of the people ."

This book is so perfectly timely and edifying, without at all being didactic.

It reminded me
Disclaimer: The publisher sent me an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am also a subscriber to the Times.

On the day I finished reading this ARC, the President of the United States called the New York Times an “enemy of the people,” and the Times itself carried an article about a reporter being detained and kicked out of Egypt. Additionally, the President tweeted support of a lawsuit against the Washington Post. And a supreme court judges wants the court to re-evaluates the Times
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Considering that McCraw became known to most of us after writing a "lawyer letter" to Trump's attorneys that went viral, it's tempting to chalk this up as another anti-Trump screed that can be easily ignored by his supporters and trumpeted (if not read) by his detractors.

That would be a mistake.

What McCraw has written instead is an informative, enlightening, nuanced, and entertaining description of the role of the First Amendment in our government and culture. As an attorney, McCraw recognizes
Kathleen Flynn
As someone who works in The Times newsroom, I found this a fascinating read.

But I think anyone who cares about journalism, history or the First Amendment will like it too. It's a concise, well-written and even witty account of some recent dramatic events -- #MeToo coverage, the uncharted territory of Trump's election and presidency, the kidnapping of various Times journalists -- putting them in a legal context and a coherent framework.

I'm glad David McCraw wrote this -- it's interesting now,
Donna Hines
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, netgalley
We sure do miss transparency, normalcy, and free speech!
Times are changing and along with it is the ego of the all mighty white male who feels perched high above far superior and much more intellectual than ever before.
This is the plight of the white supremacist and the white rage that is sweeping the nation from coast to coast emboldened by one leader who demands loyalty and expects invisibility as being above the law.
The rules don't apply to malignant narcissists after all I should know I
Ilse O'Brien
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly engaging, in-depth analysis of the current state of the press and the First Amendment, and the impact on citizens here in the U.S. and abroad. In what has to be one of the most stressful jobs, David McCraw shares remarkable stories from his experience as the newsroom lawyer for the New York Times with humor, insight and reflection. He is an extraordinarily talented writer and lawyer. To my good fortune, he was my journalism professor and editorial supervisor in college, one of the ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
McCraw’s expertly wry humor breathes life into this must-read robust defense of the media’s First Amendment Rights and responsibilities. He offers a reasonable and passionate argument for an an adversarial press in a time of disinformation and deceit. Still, he shows great sympathy for the general public frustrated Ike’s by the complexity of the stories that the Times brings to the public square. Alice in FOIA-land is easily the best chapter in the book.
Jamie Brydone-Jack
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
I am not quite sure what I was expecting when I chose this book, but it was a far more compelling and insightful read than I imagined it would be. I was drawn to it because I wanted to see what the lawyer for the New York Times had to say about the topic since The Times seem to have been embroiled in a battle with the Trump Administration since the president's inauguration. I was curious about The Times side of the story.

While the book does spend a good portion discussing The Times versus Trump,
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 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
Jenna Spinelle
I host a podcast about democracy and had the opportunity to interview David McCraw about the free press and the First Amendment earlier this summer. He was as delightful to talk to and it's clear that he's very passionate about the work that he does. The interview is available here:
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The war over press freedom was not going to be a fight about changing America's laws. It was going to be a fight about the very nature of truth, about who could capture the hearts and minds of the American people, about who got heard and who got believed. [p. 26]
It doesn't really matter how much freedom journalists have if no one believes them. A discredited press plays no role in shaping democracy and holding power accountable. [p. 275]

President Donald Trump's authoritarian instincts have
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the age of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” David E. McCraw focuses on his time as the Deputy General Counsel of the New York Times in his book, Truth in Our Times. McCraw looks at the major events that have occurred in the history of the New York Times. He shows how the case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan impacted and the shaped the history of the libel laws that still exist. He describes the everyday workings of the New York Times. From focusing and examining President Trump and his ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book gave me insight into what a lawyer actually does for a newspaper. If you work for one of those newspapers, NYT, Washington Post, etc. It is a good idea to have a lawyer to back you up. What is important that a lawyer is used for is the first amendment( right of free speech). One thing that is challenged by our President, and the DOJ on a daily basis.

The author, David E. McCraw is a good lawyer to have at your side. When you work for the paper. There are many dangerous situations you may
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I received a free review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

First, I have to say that I’m writing this review from the perspective of both a non-The Times subscriber and a high school student in Hong Kong, who is very likely not the target audience of the book.

With that being said, you may wonder why I requested this review copy in the first place. I went into this book hoping that I can learn more about the law on the freedom of media, which is an increasingly
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Our "profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open" (US Supreme Court, 1964) means that Donald Trump, as a prominent public figure, cannot successfully sue the beJesus out of the NY Times or any other "media" for character defamation. Oh, yes, he's often instructed his "great lawyer machine" to try, but of course, they, knowing such a suit could go nowhere in view of the Supreme Court decision, decline to pursue. As NY ...more
Jul 15, 2019 added it
Shelves: epub

David McCraw 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, when Donald Trump's lawyer demanded that The New York Times retract an article focused on two women that accused Trump of touching them inappropriately, David McCraw's scathing letter of refusal went viral and he became a hero of press freedom everywhere. But as you'll see in Truth in Our Times, for the top newsroom lawyer at the

Claudia Hoffmann
Excellent book on the Importance of the First Amendment in Reporting the News

David McGraw, the lawyer for the New York Times, has written an important book about a newspaper’s right to report the truth at a time that Trump rants about “fake news” and “ the failing New York Times.” It’s a good complement to “Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters” by Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian. Like so many others, I am a life long reader of the New York Times and it has
Barbara Geffen
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love a good linear telling of current events in context. Got it fulsomely here. Author takes us along for the journey inside the legal world of the York Times newsroom

Stories evolve, crises unfold. The moment calls for more than a risk management lawyer is trained to undertake. No choice but to tackle it all as best he can. The serious cause of fighting for the First Amendment informs the entire book. Yet tensions arise when stories must be silenced when lives are at stake as kidnapped
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a memoir of the last decade or so of the NY Times attorney. He talks FOIA, the First Amendment and the importance of truth. He explains why he wrote the most viral lawyer letter of the era and the responses he got from colleagues and bosses. He talks how Trump changed the battleground - not simply by calling the press the enemy of the people, but by devaluing truth and selling big lies. A good memoir, probably more interesting to attorneys and members of the press, but overall it gives a ...more
Hella Comat
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lawyer for the New York Times, the author describes how difficult journalism is today when 'false news' is the answer whenever a politician doesn't like the news story. The irony is fake fake news! He describes some of the challenges his paper and reporters have faced in the past few years.

He explains both sides of any 'leak' issue - does the public have the right to know or is the country's safety at stake? He looks at the Freedom of Information Act and how it has been used and abused by
Hilary Marcus
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised to enjoy this book so much, as a NON lawyer, given it could have been rather dry. Overall good story telling sprinkled with sense of humor. From the absurdities of FOIA responses, to the history about libel claims against news sources, to the behind scenes accounts of journalists held captive in various countries, all based on foundation of First Amendment ... I came to appreciate the NY Times even more.

"There has never been a more important moment in history to demand that
Randal White
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 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
Norma J. Engelberg
This book makes me proud to be a journalist

Everyone should read this book. Journalist are not perfect, we are human and we sometimes make mistakes. In fact, we make our mistakes in public, in writing or on video and in ways we can't hide.
The "fake-news" epithet hurts all of us who are doing just doing our jobs, whether we work for "the Bigs" or for your local news outlets.
It also hurts the ordinary people who benefit from our hard work, those who need to know the truth, to have the information
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 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 ...more
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book...
He is a litigator for the NY Times -- the book covers the first three years of the Trump administration.
There are fine chapters on libel litigation (from his perspective), the beginnings of the Weinstein investigations, "fake news," an especially interesting chapter of FOIA (freedom of information). His excellent memo, written in response to a threat from Trump lawyers about the coverage of women accusing him of sexual misconduct, is included.
Very specific to these issues,
Denise Morse
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Truth in Our Times is a truly fascinating look at the behind the scenes workings of The New York Times, particularly the legal department. It is a mix of past events and current event commentary; what it is like to be in peripherally attached to the news room in the era of Trump.

The most compelling chapters were regarding Harvey Weinstein and the kidnappings in Afghanistan. They both were full of information that I did not know, and the constant challenges (and evolving job descriptions) of
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019, own
New York Times laywer David E. McCraw gives the reader a fascinating insight into what it's like to be a newsroom lawyer for a major publication - one often singled out by Trump's attacks on the press - in these turbulent times. He covers legal and ethical questions the Times had and continues to confront not only during the Trump era but over much of the past decade and a half. Entertaining, informative, and very much worth the read.
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“Journalism was hard in a polarized country where people felt the failure to take sides was in and of itself a surrender. I knew that The Times didn’t get it right all the time, that words could both mask and antagonize, and the discussion of what to call things—alt-right or white nationalist, lie or misstatement—kept cycling through the newsroom. Still, I remained a believer in a particular vision of journalism. I believed that there was a place for journalism that told stories without partiality, that followed the facts wherever they led, even if our readers (or our president) didn’t want to be taken there. We needed to tell the truths that we found, no matter how imperfectly we did that, day after day. The alt-right had become the masters of trying to shut down and silence all the voices they found disagreeable. It was not a model I thought we should emulate. The great risk we faced came not in giving them voice but in taking their worst instincts and making them our own. 7 The Leaks Police Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years.” 0 likes
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