Robert M. Smith, Suppressed: Confessions of a Former New York Times Washington Correspondent (2021) — a mini book review

© 2021 Peter Free


07 September 2021



Two parts to this review


The following micro review of — Suppressed: Confessions of a Former New York Times Washington Correspondent (Lyons Press, 2021) — divides itself into two parts:



The bad — which is most of the book




the good — which might also be most of the volume, provided that the reader is looking for career inspiration that is very impressionistically delivered.



What is Suppressed about?


Suppressed's publisher presents the book this way — here in extracts:



Suppressed is the book the media would prefer you not read. The book may change the way you read a newspaper, listen to the radio, watch TV, or consume digital media.


Half of all Americans do not trust the media, and many Americans believe the media are to blame for the country’s division. The U.S. ranks dead last of all countries in media trust. But no one in the media is talking about this.


This well-reviewed book tells you why and shows you the inside of the media machine. It includes a look behind the scenes at some of the biggest stories in the history of journalism. The author — a former New York Times White House and investigative correspondent — was there and is ruthlessly honest about what he saw.


In fact, the author unearthed Watergate before Woodward and Bernstein, but saw the story ignored by the New York Times Washington Bureau when he gave it to them.


Smith is an attorney and barrister who has written a law book for lawyers. This is a different kind of book, but it is written with the same careful attention to the evidence.


Coming to the present, Suppressed shows how some media, including the New York Times, stepped into the ring and began slugging it out with President Trump, instead of staying outside the ring and neutrally reporting what it saw. The book argues that the media would have been more effective if it had remained neutral — and credible.


On the other hand, Times stock dropped 17 percent in the first two quarters of 2021, after President Trump left. During the same time the S&P 500 index rose 18 percent.


The book offers entertaining tidbits — some hard to believe — but also shows you how to be a knowledgeable consumer of something that you spend time on every day and depend on.


Written with candor and humor, Suppressed traces a young investigative reporter’s arc from naïveté to cynicism, from covering the White House to leaving journalism for Yale Law School and ultimately becoming a barrister in London and teaching at Oxford.


© 2021 Rowan & Littlefield, Suppressed: Confessions of a Former New York Times Washington Correspondent, Robert M. Smith (visited 07 September 2021)



The bad


Suppressed is not thematically focused upon the Lamestream's corruption of facts. Indeed, it has no announced theme. Anywhere. Even its alleged chapters wander off into frequently incomprehensible relationships with their own titles.


The unpublished Watergate story — which I presume is the volume's main selling point — does appear several times, but usually in sample slices and in discombobulated fashion.


Somewhat astonishingly — when evaluated in light of the publisher's sales blurb — we get to the nitty gritty of the 'suppressed Watergate story' episode only on page 232. Furthermore, given that Smith is reluctant to tell us anything in detail that his FBI informant allegedly told him, the suppression story is not comprehensive enough to last more than a few pages.


One of Smith's subsequent chapters tries to make a hypothetical court case of the lost (or suppressed) story issue. In my legal judgment, that chapter is weakly presented and uninteresting. This so, perhaps, because I do not doubt that the Times squashed the story on purpose. Smith's veracity is not in doubt, from my perspective.


And really, what can one say about a story that one's newspaper did not run? Such is water under a bridge. And Smith's other partial anecdotes about the paper squashing this or that are pretty much public knowledge already.


One annoying trait to Suppressed's text quickly becomes clear. It has to do with Smith's coyness in evading saying (or revealing) anything that might get him sued or held in disrepute.


If you read Suppressed with an attorney's mind, you will see — with virtually every page — that he emphatically does not want to emulate anyone with a forthright spine. One can intuit that enhancing the public's knowledge about anything is not really Smith's goal.


For instance, where irritation and controversy could conceivably arise, Smith goes out of his way to quote someone else's already published impression of the event.


In other places, he merely leaves out all the necessary referents for his (mainly hinted) anecdote. One cannot very well sue someone, when one cannot know (rationally speaking) what they are talking about.


This exposure-evading mechanism accounts for much of the book's quasi-incoherence and lack of actual substance.


Even the book's "tidbits" — the publisher's description — most of which have nothing to do with any theme at all, even at the chapter level — almost universally lack adequately prepared contexts. Most fall well short of the minimal completeness that one would expect of reasonably competently crafted vignettes.


In other words, the majority of Smith's book is sparkly drivel.


"Sparkly" because Smith is an obviously skilled Ivy League graduate. Dismembered anecdotes spill from his lips like bubbly champagne.


At most, Suppressed is a subtly self-lauding memoir. But even there, it provides so little context and so few details as to fall short of achieving cogence and substantive coherence.



The good


The book's memoir aspect is, probably inadvertently where the publisher is concerned, its best feature.


Smith has impressive multiple career credentials. His path in life demonstrates what an Ivy League background (achieved from poverty) and (presumably) well-developed personal and professional connections can do.


Even though I fault Suppressed for its lack of substantive coherence and detail, Smith does provide just enough about himself and his path through life to be inspiring. At least so, for someone who already has some idea of how challenging it is to accomplish what he says he has.



The moral? — Suppressed is (arguably) more irritating than not


Robert Smith's coy reluctance to say anything at all potentially controversial — or previously unknown — was not a selling point for me.


I regret buying Suppressed.


I will chalk this disappointing experience up to another demonstration of Amazon's deceptively unreliable review process.


If you go to, you will see that people — who had read the book, as of my review's writing date — are not enthusiastic about it. It scores between 3.20 and 3.33 of 5, depending upon which Goodreads' entry one clicks on.


I would score Suppressed noticeably lower on the ground that it is, for the most part, insubstantially delivered clickbait.