Jeff Paine is the editor of a small-town newspaper in Colorado, trying to stay afloat in the Trump era. Bury the Lead opens with reports of mysterious mutilations of pet dogs in the town. We follow Jeff as he interacts with colleagues, chats to the police and other witnesses, and puts together a story for the paper.
We see a close community, with its own rhythms and routines and a compassionate one, where people take time to ask how Jeff is feeling now his girlfriend has gone. Beneath the gentle, folksy feel of the story though, is a darker undercurrent.
After Jeff juxtaposes the story of the dog mutilations with another about the problems of the homeless in the town, some residents put the two together in their minds and turn on a local homeless man. This leads Jeff to consider how we understand and interpret news and to embark on a new direction for the paper – with disturbing consequences.
A number of real, contemporary headlines interject the story. Seeing them without context makes you view them in different ways, makes you realise how strange and unhinged our world has become, how the unsettling events in Jeff’s life are emblematic of what’s happening in ours.
This is a timely and thought-provoking dark comedy about the news – what it does to us and what it says about us. It is interesting that the medium in this case is a traditional local paper, when all the concern in the public sphere is about digital media. It is a reminder of the power of language, for good and ill, and that propaganda is nothing new.
I received a copy of Bury the Lead from the publisher via Netgalley.
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