Thursday, February 12, 2015

Interview with Scott Thomas Anderson: "Truth Seeking Rather Than Profit Seeking"

Scott Thomas Anderson, Author
In the past I have posted various interviews with actors, artists and authors that seem to be making a positive mark in the world. I am delighted to have interviewed Scott Thomas Anderson, who is not only an award winning crime reporter, investigative journalist and author, but also a very driven newspaper editor. Scott has dedicated several years researching in depth into many of the dark elements that most people would rather avoid thinking about: crime, drugs and prison culture. In a world where the truth seems to be swept under the rug, ignored or buried, Scott works even harder at uncovering that truth and shining a light on it for all to see.  Readers of my blog who know me and what I stand for, know that I am 100% a truth seeker. That is why although most of my posts here are my own investigative stories, every once in awhile I will take the time to interview someone or write a review about a book if I feel strongly for their cause or passion. 

Scott Thomas Anderson goes the extra mile in order to get the real story out to the public. That is something I admire and respect as a writer, and as a person of integrity. He does not buckle under pressure or take the easy way out, and his work proves that. I have had the esteemed pleasure to interview him briefly about his new book, as well as asking him a couple choice questions that have really been on my mind, as well as many others today in regards to the field of journalism, the obstacles the industry faces and the credibility of writers today.  


1)  What do you think is the biggest problem journalists face today in mainstream media? (newspapers, television news, etc.)

Scott Thomas Anderson:

"The biggest challenge newsrooms are facing today is that most of them are completely outmatched by the resources and personnel numbers of the government agencies they are supposed to be watch-dogging. The newsrooms may not be outmatched by talent on an individual-to-individual level, but they're outmatched by bodies and budgets. For example, one of the part-time writers who works for me at the Roseville Press Tribune recently published a simple 750-word news story on the amount of money California is spending to house prison inmates with private, for-profit corporate detention centers. Within hours of his story publishing online, two full-time "public information officers" from the Department of Corrections had collectively written me more than 4000 words of text in emails, all in an attempt to alter, change or control that story. Think about the ratio of resources between the newspaper and the government on that single report: One part-time journalist on a limited deadline versus two full-time spin doctors with seemingly unlimited amounts of employee hours dedicated to pushing back on the story - all paid for with tax dollars to boot. A government agency like the California's Department of Corrections has far more former journalists working at its "information center" than most of the newsrooms in the state have actual reporters investigating issues. As newsrooms are hit with continual layoffs, major cities, counties and law enforcement agencies are all hiring more and more of these "public information specialists" to gain as much control as they can over news stories; and the shocking thing is that it's really starting to work."      

2) Do you feel the impact the internet has made has caused a decline of print journalism?

Scott Thomas Anderson:

Courtesy: Scott Thomas Anderson
"I don't think you can blame all of print journalism's challenges on the Internet: And the main reason is that there was a mind-staggering amount of greed on the part of newspaper ownership groups back in the 1990s, when their net profits were incredible, and they were still cutting back the quality of their products to make as much money as they possibly could. That management culture created a newspaper industry that was completely unprepared by 2004 to ask people to pay for its content over free, less-polished imitations. What the Internet did to journalism is really a History question now. At this point, I think it's more vital to be asking the question of what the Internet can do to rescue journalism through innovation and opening new platforms for both professional journalists and talented writers and bloggers."

3) Would you agree or disagree that journalism is a dying field? Why or why not? 

Scott Thomas Anderson:

"To look at the pay and stability attached to most journalism jobs right now, it certainly looks like a dying field. However, I think at some point enough communities will be rail-roaded by powerful special interest groups, exploiting companies and bad political actors that a sense of outrage will remind the public about why local and regional journalism matters so much. At that point, I think they'll be a lot of smart and concerned people trying to figure out how a community can pay for professional reporters."

4) Why do you think many journalists have taken to blogging as well as writing for the mainstream media? Do you think bloggers are taken seriously? 

Scott Thomas Anderson:

"There are so few news agencies who are willing to support real investigative journalism and meaningful beat coverage these days that I think walking away from that to start a news blog becomes appealing to a lot of talented individuals. I also think that some bloggers who have never been professional writers are being taken seriously now by the public if they have skills, drive and passion. We're a story-telling species, and blogs that find a way to illuminate fascinating stories that haven't been told before are going to resonate with people emotionally - they are going to find an audience and be important to that audience. The only concern is that some blogs will try to pass off nonsense and rumors as "factual reporting." Readers have to be more careful than ever to check and cross-reference the blogs they decide they are going to follow. I don't think blogs can take the place of journalism as profession, but I think good blogs can help push back against some of the ways that journalism is being devastated as a profession." 

 5) Your new book, "The Cutting Four-piece: crime and tragedy in an era of prison overcrowding" is a new, eye-opening approach in publishing today. You are going around the big publishing houses, who do not hold the same high factual standards that are upheld in magazines and newspapers, and making your own way to get the facts to the public. Please tell me more about your book and why you chose this approach? 

Scott Thomas Anderson:

Courtesy: Scott Thomas Anderson
"Similar to my first book, "Shadow People: how meth-driven crime is eating at the heart of rural America," this new journalism project is reaching the public with the help of publishing forces that are grant-funded as opposed to profit-motivated. In my experience, a book publishing house whose main concern is a specific earning margin is going to make the book more expensive than it needs to be, meaning a lot of people can't afford to read it, and - more disturbingly - is also going to try to cut the most uncomfortable sections of the journalism because of a belief the public can't handle it, and therefore the book's marketability is diminished. Working on "The Cutting Four-piece" has been a three-year mission for me to bring to light all of the corners of the American justice system people never hear about, but are affecting the safety of their neighborhoods and the health of their communities. 

It takes the readers into the streets to see how prison overcrowding, prison culture, the power of addiction and the crumbling of the U.S. mental health care system are all connected in ways that rarely if ever get reported. Like "Shadow People," I spent a lot of time embedded with law enforcement for it - but this time I also spent a good deal of time with the people rotating in and out of the prison system. Hopefully that split lens in the storytelling gives readers a kind of unified vision of American crime that they might not have seen before. Right now, people can order advanced copies on for $10, which also pledges into a fund that will help us get hundreds of free copies to community foundations and other nonprofit groups. I know people like buying from Amazon and their local book stores, but in this case I'm hoping folks who want to read this particular book get their copy from Kickstarter, partly to send a message to people in my industry that journalism is still about truth-seeking rather than profit seeking."----

Having lived for several years in a high crime area, not unlike the element that Scott's book is focused on, I couldn't agree more with his approach and his message. I don't know about you, but I am very excited to read this book and simply cannot wait to get my copy. Please check out the video on his Kickstarter page and see for yourself what Scott's book is all about!

To order your advanced copy, simply click on the link that will take you over to Scott's KICKSTARTER page : "The Cutting Four-piece: crime and tragedy in an era of prison overcrowding"

Website:  Check out his FACEBOOK: Scott Thomas Anderson, Author

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually)

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