Katovsky, Bill

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Katovsky, Bill

PERSONAL:

Education: University of Michigan, B.A.; University of California at Berkeley, M.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Northern California E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Tri-Athlete Magazine, founder; Brookings Institution, former researcher.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Goldsmith Book Prize, Harvard University, for Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

(With Timothy Carlson) Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2003.

(With Roy M. Wallack) Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100, Marlowe (New York, NY), 2005.

Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent and the Risk of Speaking Out, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Bill Katovsky is the author of the award-winning Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq, and of the 2006 oral history Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent and the Risk of Speaking Out. Collaborating with Timothy Carlson to write Embedded, Katovsky interviewed sixty journalists who reported on the early stages of the Iraq war while embedded with U.S. troops, which meant that they traveled with and shared the dangers of these soldiers. The resulting book looks at both the positive aspects of such a journalistic relationship as well as the negative ones. On the positive side was the access journalists had to front-line activity, but countering that was a loss of objectivity, as the journalists became, in effect, fellow soldiers. There was also a lack of an overall perspective in such immediate and intimate reporting. Among those interviewed by the authors were journalists from major network media as well as print media. Kevin A. Smith, writing in the Michigan Law Review on the implications for First Amendment rights, found Embedded "a dynamic and diverse read." Smith further noted that by stationing themselves with frontline troops, journalists may have sacrificed not only objectivity but also free-speech protection: "Embeds, by gaining greater access to the front lines, may … have sacrificed a degree of First Amendment protection. In addition to the waivers that embeds were forced to sign, embeds may have subjected their First Amendment claims to application to a less protective set of precedents." However, Smith also commented that the stories provided by the journalists in Embedded "argue that the embed program was a successful accommodation of the needs of the military, the media, and … [the] public."

Most other critics also had praise for the work. Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush felt Embedded "offers a rich and revealing look at emotions and images rarely seen in news reporting." For Nicholas Kulish, writing in the Washington Monthly, "the book may not automatically appeal to the average reader because journalists like to talk shop. But anyone interested in the profession or firsthand experience of the war would be well served by picking it up." Thomas A. Bruscino, Jr., writing for History, was less positive in his assessment, though, observing that "the intriguing individual accounts are too few and too short to rescue a book that suffers from a severe lack of direction and perspective." For Bruscino, Embedded is an example of "history on the fly." However, Brendan R. McLane, writing in Parameters, had a higher opinion of Embedded, calling it "a thorough compendium of firsthand accounts by international journalists, as well as by US public affairs officers." Similarly, H.D.S. Greenway, writing in the New York Times Book Review, observed: "The interviews were made when memories and experiences were fresh, and the accounts crackle with immediacy." Greenway further noted: "Most report favorably on the embedding experience."

In Patriots Act, Katovsky provides more oral history, this time interviewing twenty different Americans "who love their country enough to be critical of it," as David Pitt commented in Booklist. The subjects range from a New Mexico cattle rancher protesting oil and gas industry practices, to a former security assistant to the George W. Bush White House, to the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. All the interviewees had the courage to voice personal opinions in the face of political and public pressure to do otherwise. As Katovsky explained to BlogCritics. org contributor Scott Butki: "Many of the book's interviewees had nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘anti-terror’ legislation that was recklessly shoehorned into law right after 9/11. But they were all patriots for defending free speech and their right to dissent." Katovsky continued: "For example, I interviewed a young couple from Texas who were arrested for simply wearing anti-Bush t-shirts at a Fourth of July event in Charleston, West Virginia where the President was attending." Butki described the books as "an engrossing oral history of whistleblowers, dissenters, and others concerned about what is really going on in society." Similarly, Deborah White, in a book review for About. com, found Patriots Act to be "energizing and interesting."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq, p. 384; February 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent and the Risk of Speaking Out.

History, winter, 2004, Thomas A. Bruscino, Jr., review of Embedded, p. 44.

Library Journal, November 15, 2003, Susan M. Colowick, review of Embedded, p. 77.

Michigan Law Review, May, 2004, Kevin A. Smith, review of Embedded, p. 1329.

New York Times Book Review, November 23, 2003, H.D.S. Greenway, review of Embedded.

Nieman Reports, winter, 2003, John Burns, "Reporting in Closed Societies," review of Embedded, p. 80.

Parameters, summer, 2005, Brendan R. McLane, review of Embedded, p. 172.

Washington Monthly, December, 2003, Nicholas Kulish, "Embed Cred," review of Embedded, p. 52.

ONLINE

About.com,http://usliberals.about.com/ (June 12, 2006), Deborah White, review of Patriots Act; (June 19, 2006), Deborah White, "Q & A—Bill Katovsky, Author of Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent."

BlogCritics.org,http://www.blogcritics.org/ (August 17, 2006), Scott Butki, "Interview: Bill Katovsky, Author of Patriots Act."

Huffington Post,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ (March 12, 2007), "Bill Katovsky."

Patriots Act Book Web site,http://www.patriotsactbook.com (March 12, 2007).