In 1995, NPR created a brand new media beat and gave it to today's interviewee, who covered it for six years from NPR's New York bureau in midtown Manhattan, until she was tapped by WNYC to help re-launch On The Media in 2001. The program was reborn in January of 2001 and now has nearly one million weekly listeners and has since won quite a few awards by showing how the journalism sausage is made. Earlier this year, Gladstone became an illustrated character in her book The Influencing Machine, with comics drawn by acclaimed artist Josh Neufeld. The cartoon version of Brooke conducts the reader through two millennia of history-from the newspapers in Caesar's Rome to the penny press of the American Revolution and the manipulations of contemporary journalism. Gladstone's manifesto debunks the notion that "The Media" is an external force, outside of our control, since we've begun directly constructing, filtering, and responding to what we watch and read. Gladstone has won several awards, including an Overseas Press Club Award, a Peabody and the Milwaukee Press Club's Sacred Cat Award for lifetime achievement.
What are some of your favorite graphic-style books, other than
There are so many. Certainly the most influential was Scott
McCloud's Understanding Comics. It was my guide. I kept it
by my bedside the year I was writing the book. I also got a lot of
ideas from Paul
Karazik's and Dave Mazzuchelli's graphic adaptation of Paul Auster's City
of Glass - it's stunning. And I'm a huge fan of my
partner-in-crime's moving work of graphic journalism about Hurricane
Katrina, A.D.: New Orleans
After the Deluge.
Which chapter of your book was the hardest to get together, and
which came together the most easily?
The hardest was the chapter on war reporting ("War") - it was the
longest, the goriest, the most sweeping and complex, almost like a book
within a book. It was also the one where I had the greatest trouble
coming up with images simple enough to fit into the format. Josh and I
had to go through it again and again. As for the easiest chapter - I
really can't say. None of them were easy.
Was there a discussion regarding how the illustration of you
would be portrayed on the cover?
You look a bit pensive: was there any talk about giving you a bit more
of a smile?
I wanted that stunned expression. She needed to be stupefied, aware of
her place within the machine, but stymied... ambivalent...um...maybe I'm
reading too much into a straight line but it was definitely my choice.
Who did you specifically picture as the target audience of you
book, since we're all consumers of the media?
This is supposed to be for everyone, specialists and laymen. The
Influencing Machine is both a map of our cultural landscape, a
history, an analysis and a manifesto. There's a lot in there that people
who've spent their whole lives in the news business didn't know (or so
they tell me.) Certainly, I didn't know most of it until I started
researching the book.
When politicians criticize the media, do you feel flattered or
annoyed (or other?)
Mainly, I feel weary and bored. I've heard it all before. The main
argument in my book is that people project everything they hate about
our culture, our country and the people who live in it - onto the media.
We the Media comprise a big crazy funhouse mirror of America. Not a
perfect reflection, but if we look closely enough we can see almost
everything in it, including ourselves and everything we can't stand.
Do you think there was ever a golden age of reporting, or will
information just get better with time thanks to technology?
Nope, there never was a Golden Age and there never will be. There's just
more and more media, more democratized, and everyone with a computer or
a cell phone has an increasing role to play. The big change is the
evaporating line between media producer and media consumer. Now that
you can get virtually everything you want (and you can if you look hard
enough) the onus falls on you to be mindful of your own prejudices and
predilections when consuming and propagating information.
What are some of your favorite depictions of reporting in movies
I'm very partial to the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac about a
dissolute reporter who's defeated by the unsolved Zodiac murders, and a
cartoonist who loses his family because of his obsessive need to solve
it. These are not heroes, just human beings in the grip of something
they can't control. Reporting can feel like that. Then again, so can
life. On the other hand, I can't get enough of All the President's
Men. (So sue me.)
When you go on vacation or take time off, is the concept of
temporarily avoiding the news one that you embrace, or is it even
possible with your job?
Can I embrace the concept of avoiding the news? I insist on it!
Seriously, hosting and editing "On the Media" can really make your head
hurt after a while. I'm not really a media junkie. I don't suck in all
the news like a Hoover. I hop gingerly across the media landscape like
it's hot sand on a beach and I'm looking for a conch shell to hold up to
my ear to hear the sea. On my own time I'm off that beach and usually
watching the Sci Fi channel.
I know that you've worked on a sci-fi book in the past: What is
it about the genre that appeals to you? Is it an escape?
I feel completely liberated when reading science fiction. It reinvents
the rules and reinvents the world. It's unbounded imagination and in
fact, a study of the work of futurists, specialists and science fiction
writers found that the science fiction writers were more likely to make
accurate predictions. The reason, apparently, was that they didn't worry
about what seemed impossible at the time they were writing. The
telephone, space travel, nanotechnology, at one time they all faced
seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The science fiction writers imagined
their way past those blocks. Why doesn't everybody love
What would a future book from you most likely resemble in terms
of genre and/or tone?
Before the The Influencing Machine, I tried to write a science
fiction comic book about two reporters in the year 2042. I kept coming
up with inventions and then finding out they'd already been invented. I
came up with devices that didn't exist and found they'd already been
depicted by writers before me. I liked the characters, but had problems
with the plot. I still want to do it, but I'm going to have to let go of
the idea that I will break new ground. I have to try. As Samuel
Beckett once wrote... The sun shone having no alternative on the nothing
How does it feel to be the 297th person interviewed for
Zulkey.com (and now WBEZ)?It feels right.