The Burlington Transcript
The Burlington Transcript is an authentic portrayal of the life of a reporter working on a small-town daily newspaper and the decisions and choices he makes every day that reflect morality, personal integrity, and journalistic ethics.
Journalist Paul MacDonald is self-deprecating and witty. He describes himself as average. In fact, he says, “It would take being well above average to possess the qualities to drag myself up out of average. But of course, being average, I don’t possess those qualities.”
When it comes to ambition, he’s average as well, which is why his first wife divorced him. He’s satisfied reporting on the lives and events of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, at least in the context of his beat.
And, since “there’s nowt so queer as folk,” the nine chapters of the book are filled with drama, compassion, and humor that include academic con men, entrepreneurial dreamers, manipulating entertainers, deceitful colleagues, and vacuous beauty queens. The accounts not only reflect the realistic experience of a reporter but also how the public responds to people in this profession.
Much of MacDonald’s stories aren’t really what he considers reporting, but rather “puff pieces,” a form of local cheerleading, such as “a crossing guard retires after forty years” or “an Italian restaurant has its grand opening.” However, there are moments when his professionalism is challenged. Should he reveal the plagiarism he’s discovered in the work of a local author up for a book award and destroy his career? Similarly, he has the opportunity to expose a college administrator’s affair with a co-ed.
His personal morals and integrity are also tested when he shares a house with a married couple he works with at The Transcript. Over the course of a few months, it becomes apparent their marriage is in trouble. He’s attracted to the woman, and when she makes subtle advances, he has to make a decision.
Underlying author Stan Freeman’s narrative is the existential threat to MacDonald’s career and to all print media; the growth and popularity of the Internet that siphons away readers and revenue.
As the fortune of the newspaper declines, MacDonald is on the lookout for stories that could be expanded into books and provide him some financial security. Is this the future for reporters made redundant by advancing technology?
Freeman’s simple and concise prose makes the book a pleasure to read. Individual chapters are so well crafted they could be considered independent short stories featuring the same protagonist and setting while addressing a different theme.
The Burlington Transcript is an entertaining book that gives an insightful glimpse into a profession that, despite performing an essential service to society, is fighting a losing battle to stay relevant and viable.
|Hampshire House Publishing Co.
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