Gabriel Sherman is part of a group of young media reporters—many starting out at the New York Observer under the tutelage of then-Editor Peter Kaplan, an avowed media nostalgist—who have seen their subject, the power of the media, pulled out from under them. The culturally dominant, class-conscious, politically influential, and largely liberal news business, the subject of big books of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, started to die just as their careers began.
A desire to recover that centrality, and to hold accountable the forces that diminished it, seems to motivate Sherman’s book about Fox News chief Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News—and Divided a Country. Sherman’s conceit is that he is still writing about something at the center of American life and culture, something that has turned evil, rather than, in fact, marginal. In a sense, this book is a quest for a whale—but it is one the author can’t find, has no intrinsic feeling for, and that is able to elude him.