Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Or read all about at least some of it.

I still read print newspapers–-three are delivered daily to our driveway—but I find today’s news overwhelming.  Easier to retreat into the past, which on closer examination was also overwhelming to those who lived through it.  It’s probably even easier to skim the “morning” headlines on my Kindle the night before.  Except in our 24/7 news cycle, there are no longer “morning” headlines.

“Breaking news” breaks constantly. Brian Williams promotes his 11th Hour show by promising the best “journalists” of our time talking about the story of our time, “as they file their stories for tomorrow.”  Yet, nothing is filed for “tomorrow.” Every minor new detail must be brought to you right now. It’s not only that there is just too much news. It’s that there is too much shallow news.

Yet, I still read print newspapers, usually catching up with what by now is “old news” during dinner, before recycling them. The news, whether breaking or not, is after all ephemeral–and newspapers good for wrapping fish, the saying went. With a president who changes his mind pretty much every 90 seconds, one is tempted to wait for the “second day story,” another phrase rarely heard today but more important than ever.  The problem is reporters feeding the beast for click bait have little time for such reflection or thoughtful analysis. Opinions form from execrable tidbits. No time or resources these days for a deep dive.  Democracy suffers.

But enough ranting–for now.

In this digital world, my digits have been quite busy.  ICYMI, I reviewed (((Semitism))) Being Jewish in the Age of Trump for the Washington Independent Review of Books. I’ve also been wrapping up a massive Marriott story for Bethesda Magazine, to run in the July issue. It contains everything you wanted to know – or perhaps don’t want to know – about the world’s largest hotel chain moving its corporate headquarters five miles from a suburban office park to downtown Bethesda.

On the near horizon (May 5) is the 6th annual Washington Writers Conference (formerly Books Alive!), for which I have been the chief organizer of panels and recruiter of panelists and speakers. My perk is I get to introduce the keynote speaker, who this year will be television news icon Bob Schieffer. In addition to a full program, we will have 15 literary agents to whom aspiring authors may pitch their ideas.  Several book contracts have resulted from these pitch sessions, including my latest one.

Even if you have an agent or don’t want one, the program is a draw. Acclaimed novelist Alice McDermott will be discussing her work. An afternoon panel, “Political Books in the Age of Trump,” promises to be a lively conversation among E.J. Dionne, David Litt, Larry Leamer and moderator Peggy Engel. Other panels cover crime thrillers by women, science fiction, climate change and more.

I’ve also been busy editing the summer issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine, a quarterly that is now online-only three issues a year.  The forthcoming edition features stories about the thefts of archaeological artifacts from ancient sites in Israel, the rise and fall and rise of Israeli folk dancing, and a little-known sect of Jews known as Karaites.  The magazine recently won two  Rockower Awards for excellence in Jewish journalism, one about Trotsky’s brief stay in New York City in 1917, the other about a Dutch “house of memories” with a compelling family history.

Meanwhile. FIVE FOR FREEDOM: The African American Soldiers in John Brown’s Army is rapidly approaching its launch date – officially June 1, but I will be speaking and signing books as a “featured author” on May 19 at the Gaithersburg Book Festival. The time is 11:15 to 12:05. I will be sharing the stage with Paula Tarnapol Whitacre, who has written a book about a female abolitionist from Rochester, N.Y., who spent much of the war aiding escaped slaves and wounded Union soldiers in Alexandria, Virginia. The place is the James Michener tent.  As I am also the author of Chesapeake Country, that seems only fitting.  I am told  that Book CSPAN will be there.

For those who cannot make it to Gaithersburg, I’ll be at Politics & Prose on Connecticut Avenue at 6 p.m. on June 2, at the Source in Montgomery Mall on August 1, and at many other venues after that. My schedule can be found by clicking on the Events tab on this web site.


  1. Ellen Zimmerman on April 27, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Hi Cousin Gene!

    I finally am getting your notifications!! And, WOW, your life sounds just a little busy and very exciting!

    It was great talking with you the other day. Thank you fire reaching out. Please let me know when you are in my area and if I get down to D.C., I will do the same!

    Send my love to Sandy and the boys and I am looking forward to reading your new book soon!

    Cousin Ellen

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