Dennis Culloton, President and CEO

As summer begins it is time to create a summer reading list. Let’s forget for a moment that the onset of Fall in just three months may also bring self-loathing and regret for falling short of my reading ambitions and binge watching “Scandal” on Netflix instead.

Digression: if I meet my summer reading goals, does it count for Mayor Emanuel’s challenge to Chicago kids to read 2.5 million books to bring The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon to the Windy City? Hey kids, get reading.

 Anyway, back to summer reading, at the top of my list is a satire of the new and old media and the outsized self-absorbed personalities that inhabit their worlds, “The Last Magazine” written by Michael Hastings. The sad irony is his novel comes out after his tragic death last year at the age of 33.  Hastings, a gifted writer and war correspondent survived war zones in the Middle East but not a car crash in Los Angeles. He was the new century’s Gonzo journalist in the mold of Hunter S. Thompson ( Is “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” on the “Rahm’s Readers” list?). Hastings famously took down Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the pages of Rolling Stone in an article entitled “The Runaway General.”  He lived the life of an old media news magazine intern and writer and a celebrity new media author.  The Last Magazine appears to be a semi-autobiographical novel of his dual experiences.

 Besides the promise of a fun read, I am looking forward to the inside media lampooning.  One passage quoted in a recent Chicago Tribune review shows Hastings, in one paragraph, describing the new media bloggers and the challenges they pose to newsmakers and readers alike:

 “They are important, or believe in their own importance, even if only expressed with the required self-mockery. They aren’t artists, and not really a community of writers, either: they are bloggers, and their focus is each other. They are hyper-consumers; they don’t write, they create content, stripping away any pretense of some larger ethos or goal except that it is somehow hip, rebellious — though they’d never use those words and they mock hipsters and rebellion too. A desire to be noticed and to criticize the criticizers of the world, to gain its acceptance by rejecting it, breeding a strange kind of apathy and nihilism and ambition, floating in a kind of morally barren world.”

 To get your story out today with the new media content-creators, you have to be part Phil Jackson Zenmaster/coach–giving in to the strength of your opponents while exploiting their weaknesses–and part new media Gonzo.  Give the rebellious mock hipsters what they want about #trends while using a multi-level approach to delivering your news.  The Last Magazine will not be a how-to for p.r. flaks–Hastings had disdain for our ilk–but I look forward to the media intel and adding to my virtual wastepaper basket of random information and sub-references.

 Hastings last work was discovered on a computer by his widow and she shared it with the world.  He had a brilliant and all-too-brief career and I look forward to diving in.  Back away from the Netflix clicker. #Rahmsreaders and Fallon are counting on it.