Stuck in the airport with my flight delayed yet again, another 4 hours, I found myself at the bookstore in the terminal, killing time. Nothing in the predominant displays caught my eye, but way in the back, in a tiny section titled “Politics,” I spotted The Long Slide. Tucker Carlson is an accomplished person with a history in journalism from multiple perspectives. Known today primarily as a conservative-leaning commentator, he is an N.Y. Times best-selling author who has hosted prime-time programs on CNN, PBS, and MSNBC. According to some sources, he was a registered Democrat from 2006 to 2020. According to Forbes.com, as of November 2021, his 8 pm Fox News cable talk show draws the second-highest following in the United States, second only to “The Five” on Fox News at 5 pm.
I’m the first to admit I will read anything, but as a journalist myself, I was drawn to see what a fellow journalist had to say throughout a lifetime. I read the entire book at the airport.
Whether you’re a fan of Tucker Carlson or agree with his politics or views, this book is a compilation of a lost art – magazine journalism. Contained within are 23 previously published articles spanning 1995 to 2016. Sadly, many magazines, such as TALK, are long defunct. A decade ago, there were many more general interest magazines in circulation. Carlson writes, “general interest doesn’t even make sense anymore; Americans no longer have enough in common with each other to support any mass-media product.” He terms it “narrowcasting” for a divided country. A tad pessimistic. Not one to mince words, Carlson posits that many publishers would not include many of his writings today. “I’d written over the years for editors who passionately disagreed with my politics – most of them probably. It never occurred to me that a story of mine would be killed or rewritten because some executive thought I voted the wrong way.”
In the introduction, he is in battle mode with the company that published his book for its handling of fellow journalists. It’s interesting but gratuitous to include material best suited for a different book or editorial piece. Sticking to the compendium of Carlson’s writing and pieces he chose to include is the brilliance of this work. Each piece has a write-up introducing it, often explaining how he came upon the assignment or why he was interested in covering the topic.
This discussion is a history of journalism for those under 40 and a walk down memory lane for baby boomers. For example, “Hall of Lame,” appearing in Forbes March 9, 1999 edition, is about Who’s Who in America. I am old enough to remember some college students boasting they appeared in some editions. When I found myself divorced, homeless, and jobless, I took a job cold-calling professors trying to convince them to purchase the latest Who’s Who publication. It was short-lived employment. Carlson uncovers half the story in this piece but never uncovered how they got names of people – I know. Lists were bought from every conceivable collector of information. I cold-called, and per the script I recited, told them they were referred to the publication and what an honor it was to pay $500 to be included and get the CD disc at the time – the leather-bound editions long extinct. I got a $45 commission for each taker.
I admire Carlson’s tenacity and unfettered determination in writing and sticking to his convictions. He remains true to his ideals and beliefs.
“His life was about to change forever; he’d never be anonymous again once he had run for president,” writes Carlson after arriving early at George W. Bush’s church just to see the then governor in his element. Carlson was in the church when Bush W. came alone and sat in an empty pew listening to the sermon and singing hymns. Bush left. No fanfare. No hoopla. This was from “Devil May Care,” published in Talk magazine September 1999. Carlson, like many others, cannot label or neatly box George W., which is what makes the piece so eerie. You just don’t know if you like the guy.
“It was normal for men to take a couple of hours in the middle of the day, have a drink, and swap stories. In the New York Times,” a better time” writes Carlson, June 5, 2002, piece titled “Power Host to Power Brokers in The Power Capital.” It is about the general manager Tommy Jacomo of the Palm restaurant in Washington D.C., who emerged into notoriety. He told sex jokes, trafficked cocaine, was arrested in a sting operation, and was able to pull in favors and get off. Tucker admits that he got into trouble with Jacomo because his children did not know about his cocaine arrest. Leave it to Carlson to republish it. Most journalists would not have given the piece renewed life after the controversy and Jacomo’s alleged underworld ties. He died in 2002.
Carlson is a fine journalist and an excellent writer. Each piece is tied up neatly. You sense you are witnessing history with Carlson. Many of his stories are often autobiographical and nostalgic. A Norman Rockwell utopia. As stated in the introduction to the book – enjoy the time capsule.
The Long Slide
Thirty Years In American Journalism
Simon & Schuster