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Author Talk – Steve Herman in Conversation with Jim Brooke

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Going behind the scenes with a veteran member of the White House press corps

Steven L Herman, chief national correspondent for the nonpartisan, government-funded Voice of America (VOA), weaves together memoir and history to pull back the curtain on the inner workings of the White House press corps, giving readers a rare glimpse into the historic and current relationship between the president and the press.

Herman traces the trajectory of his career as a journalist—from learning to be skeptical of government officials’ statements when he worked as a novice reporter covering nuclear testing in Nevada in the 1970s to understanding the power of on-the-ground social media coverage after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and facing the challenges of covering the Trump administration. He reflects on the experience of reporting on a president who once called journalists “enemies of the people”—and indeed, former president Trump singled out VOA, accusing the organization of being not a voice of America but rather a voice supporting Moscow’s and Beijing’s interests. Under questionable circumstances, top VOA executives lost their security clearances, and a dossier was prepared on Herman in an effort to remove him as White House bureau chief. With journalistic independence under threat, Herman feared not only for his career but also for “the soul of Voice of America.”

Throughout Behind the White House Curtain, Herman convincingly argues that public access to accurate, unbiased information is essential to a healthy and peaceful democracy, and that journalists can and should play a key role in pressing government officials to be truthful and transparent. At a time when misinformation is rampant and the need for unbiased coverage of current events is more urgent than ever, Herman reminds readers that freedom of the press is a foundational American right. (Excerpts from Kent State University Press)

Jim Brooke grew up in the Berkshires and attended Berkshire Country Day. After graduating from Yale, he embarked on a lifelong career as a foreign correspondent. Reporting for 24 years for The New York Times, he was based in West Africa, Brazil, Denver, Canada, and Japan. After taking a buyout from the Times in 2006, he was, successively, Bloomberg bureau chief in Moscow, then Voice of America TV/Radio correspondent for the former Soviet Union. After eight years in Russia, he moved to Phnom Penh to run a newspaper, then to Kyiv, Ukraine, where he founded and edited the Ukraine Business News. After six years in Kyiv, Jim recently moved back to Lenox with his family.  Jim is currently a columnist for the Berkshire Eagle.