Gay Talese, The Kingdom and the Power (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1969)
Reissued by Doubleday/Anchor Press in paperback in 1978.
Reissued by Ivy Books, 1992.
The Kingdom is the inner sanctum of The New York Times, a hierarchal universe; The Power is the influence that this microcosmic universe has on the larger universe that it boldly claims to cover ("All the News That's Fit to Print"). Until Talese's book, The New York Times, also known as "the paper of record" to the public, was the newspaper that set the prestigious industry standard in news reporting. Talese reveals the newspaper's inner-world in his innovative The Kingdom and the Power, which exposes the significant political and social influence of The Times on the other inner-world's comprising the real world.
Talese's style, that earned him the distinction, according to Tom Wolfe, as the "real pioneer" of New Journalism, employed literary techniques traditionally associated with works of fiction in his nonfiction writing. Ironically, Talese left the stylistic constraints of The Times in 1965 to develop his craft more fully. The Kingdom and the Power was Talese's first project to incorporate, on a very large scale, the style he had developed throughout the 1960's in his Esquire magazine articles (some of the book's material was first published as articles in Esquire and Harpers). In the book, The New York Times serves as a microcosm of American culture and history, and indirectly examines larger issues such as class structure, religion, the American Dream, idealism, and fairness and truth. Talese's newsflash: reporters have egos, and these egos can affect a news story both consciously and subconsciously. Not all the facts can be included into a story and they are constructed as writers and editors see fit (see: "...Fit to Print").
Talese writes in the book's first chapter, "The Times was the bible, emerging each morning with a view of life that thousands of readers accepted as reality. They accepted it on the simple theory that what appeared in The Times must be true, and this blind faith made monks of many men on The Times." Talese suggests that even reporters for The Times were subject to natural human fallibility that would inevitably affect their stories and therefore, the portrayal of the news.
In the book's second chapter, Talese writes of the Times' reporter who was on assignment in Dallas the day of President Kennedy's assassination, calling the reporter's work triumphant in "collecting facts out of confusion." He indicates that the story, reported and written under deadline, had enormous potential for flaws. The Kennedy assassination story serves as an extreme example of reporting and writing under deadline, and getting facts straight. The tremendous task that The Times as an entity has inherited, covering every (newsworthy) news story and capturing every detail of every story (and getting every detail correct), is perhaps a likely impossibility. Talese reveals the magnitude of this potential unattainable daily task by allowing his readers to see the gargantuan undertaking of The Times first-hand.
Talese, known as the ultimate outsider or observer, also had the benefit of insider status for this story. Having worked his way from copyboy to reporter/writer, Talese spent 1953 to 1965 at The New York Times. In the twenty chapters of The Kingdom and the Power, he incorporates his insider knowledge, as well as his powerful observational and reportage skills, to capture the behind the scenes goings-on at The Times, as well as putting them into historical context. He conducted hundreds of interviews and had the benefit of access to many editors' and writers' personal files.
The book evolved from an initial Esquire article in 1966 on Clifton Daniel, who was then managing editor of The Times. As Talese writes in the book's author's note, "...I began for the first time to see the paper in historical terms, to sense Daniel's relationship to others in the hierarchy, and it gradually began to occur to me that a story about The Times was no doubt as valid and dramatic as any The Times was reporting."
The Kingdom and the Power is widely considered to be the first "media book" – portraying the inner-workings of a media establishment, turning the tables on the people who write and report the news, and making them the subject. It is the predecessor to notable works such as Bob Woodward's and Carl Berstein's All the President's Men (1974).
The Kingdom and the Power was Talese's first best-seller. It received the Christopher Book Award in 1970.
Official Gay Talese site
2003 NPR interview
Public radio audio lecture, 11/03
Talese, on The Kingdom and the Power and other subjects
"Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" - famous Talese story - originally published in Esquire, April 1966