Journalism can only be done adversarially — or immorally.
So argues the 1990 book The Journalist the Murderer by Janet Malcolm, which was first a serialization the year before in New Yorker. The nonfiction book is today considered a seminal work in journalism ethics, and related fields. Though frequently referenced in other works I’ve read, I only now finished the short book.
Malcolm focuses on the relationship between a journalist named Joe McGinniss and a man named Jeffrey MacDonald, who was accused of murdering his wife and children. McGinniss wrote a 1983 bestselling book about the case, which then became a popular movie, but was later criticized for his handling of the relationship with MacDonald, resulting in a high-profile libel case. In short, McGinniss was accused of portraying himself as sympathetic to MacDonald but always planning a damning book. Malcolm takes this narrow example to draw wider conclusions, including the nature of truth and how it is represented in journalism.
Below find my notes for future reference.
Continue reading The Journalist the Murderer