Title: UNBELIEVABLE: MY FRONT ROW SEAT TO THE CRAZIEST CAMPAIGN IN AMERICAN HISTORY
Author: Katy Tur
Publication Information: Dey Street Books, 2017
Source: Library – requested after viewing author interview
Genre: Adult – Memoir
Warnings: language, discussion of sexual assault (specifically in the last two chapters)
Rating: 3 stars
Recommended For: People interested in a behind the scenes look at political journalism.
Called “disgraceful,” “third-rate,” and “not nice” by Donald Trump, NBC News correspondent Katy Tur reported on—and took flak from—the most captivating and volatile presidential candidate in American history.
Tur lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Trump around the country, powered by packets of peanut butter and kept clean with dry shampoo. She visited forty states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports, listened to endless loops of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”—a Trump rally playlist staple.
From day 1 to day 500, Tur documented Trump’s inconsistencies, fact-checked his falsities, and called him out on his lies. In return, Trump repeatedly singled out Tur. He tried to charm her, intimidate her, and shame her. At one point, he got a crowd so riled up against her, Secret Service agents had to walk her to her car.
None of it worked. Facts are stubborn. So was Tur. She was part of the first women-led politics team in the history of network news. The Boys on the Bus became the Girls on the Plane–but the circus remained. Through all the long nights, wild scoops, naked chauvinism, dodgy staffers, and fevered debates, no one had a better view than Tur.
Unbelievable is her darkly comic, fascinatingly bizarre, and often scary story of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned, and discredited. Tur was a foreign correspondent who came home to her most foreign story of all.
(Summary from Goodreads)
Normally I wouldn’t have picked up UNBELIEVABLE, but I thought this interview Katy Tur did on The Daily Show was interesting enough that I decided to read it. I didn’t learn anything particularly new about the Trump campaign – Tur pretty much confirms what people on the left have been saying for awhile – but it was an interesting look at political journalism. It’s also a fairly quick read, and the writing is engaging and easy to read.
Overall, I thought the structure was effective. Tur alternates between two chronological timelines: campaign events and minor mishaps on the campaign trail, and watching the events unfold at the Trump campaign’s victory party on Election Night. (I will caution that this could potentially be triggering to anyone who weren’t mentally in a great place that night.) On the other hand, there was a chapter in the middle about Tur’s parents explaining how she got into journalism that seemed out of place and probably wasn’t necessary in the context of the larger narrative.
If you’re looking for Earth Shattering Revelations about the Trump campaign, this isn’t the book to read. But if you’re interested in a behind the scenes look at the rallies in a format that’s entertaining (somehow, given the subject matter) and could easily be read in an afternoon, UNBELIEVABLE would be a good fit.