Reporter

Reporter

by Seymour M. Hersh

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Overview

"Reporter is just wonderful. Truly a great life, and what shines out of the book, amid the low cunning and tireless legwork, is Hersh's warmth and humanity. This book is essential reading for every journalist and aspiring journalist the world over." —John le Carré 

“A master class in the craft of reporting." —Alan Rusbridger, The New York Times Book Review

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author and preeminent investigative journalist of our timea heartfelt, hugely revealing memoir of a decades-long career breaking some of the most impactful stories of the last half-century, from Washington to Vietnam to the Middle East.


Seymour Hersh's fearless reporting has earned him fame, front-page bylines in virtually every major newspaper in the free world, honors galore, and no small amount of controversy. Now in this memoir he describes what drove him and how he worked as an independent outsider, even at the nation's most prestigious publications. He tells the stories behind the storiesriveting in their own rightas he chases leads, cultivates sources, and grapples with the weight of what he uncovers, daring to challenge official narratives handed down from the powers that be. In telling these stories, Hersh divulges previously unreported information about some of his biggest scoops, including the My Lai massacre and the horrors at Abu Ghraib. There are also illuminating recollections of some of the giants of American politics and journalism: Ben Bradlee, A. M. Rosenthal, David Remnick, and Henry Kissinger among them. This is essential reading on the power of the printed word at a time when good journalism is under fire as never before.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018 | A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year

“What a story. What a life. It’s hard to read this book without a tinge of envy and a lot of admiration.” —Charles Glass, Times Literary Supplement

“A master class in the craft of reporting." —Alan Rusbridger, The New York Times Book Review

Reporter is a miracle. . . The stories brim with humor, wit, poignancy, pointillist portraits of brilliant color—above all, [Hersh's] own voice.” —Andrew Meier, Bookforum 

“One of the most compelling and significant books ever written about American journalism.” —Jon Schwarz, The Intercept

"Intimate without ever turning to confession . . . Like all good memoirs, this one shows more than it says, and is a work of conscience as well as memory." —David Bromwich, Times Literary Supplement “Books of the Year”

“[Hersh] is a classic American archetype—the lone warrior on a quest for truth and justice . . . good books about the making of journalism are few and far between, and Hersh’s memoir is a welcome addition.” —Glenn Frankel, The Washington Post

“Cinematically-detailed and warmly human storytelling that's at once reminiscent of vintage Hersh and also tonally unlike anything else he's ever written . . . Ultimately the book yields up a warts-and-all picture not just of Hersh but of an entire era of journalism.” —Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor

“Riveting.” —James Bovard, American Conservative

“When it comes time for the next generation of journalists to re-discover what this job is supposed to be about, they can at least read Reporter. It's all in here.” —Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

“Hersh has been one of America’s premier investigative journalist . . . an untethered operator whose scoops have resulted from veering from the pack. Reporter offers a best-practices guide to journalism as well as an implicit critique of the way it’s practiced today.” —Michael Massing, The Nation
 
“The experience of reading Hersh’s memoir is like visiting a lost world . . . To put it in a callow way, this stuff is cool.” —Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic
 
“In Reporter, even the footnotes are priceless . . . [the book] has more juicy background, action-packed storytelling and name-drops per page than any book in recent memory, all told in straightforward style. At its center is a profane, dogged, passionate, tireless, old-fashioned reporter who brought to light schisms, coverups and outrages that informed the world.” —Claude Peck, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Reading Reporter is to be reminded of the true power of journalism.” —Lorraine Berry, Signature
  
"Reporter is just wonderful. Truly a great life, and what shines out of the book, amid the low cunning and tireless legwork, is Hersh's warmth and humanity. This book is essential reading for every journalist and aspiring journalist the world over." —John le Carré
 
“Once he catches the spoor of a My Lai, Hersh’s tracking is a model of craft and control. He bargains with sources, gains knowledge by pretending to have it, or not have it, already; sneaks around; tricks, cajoles, plays his subjects; and engages in a one-man guerrilla war against an embarrassed U.S. government. He is calculating, cold-blooded, well-behaved, and professional.” —Graeme Wood, The American Scholar

“Often reads like a case study in how to write a political thriller . . . A fascinating look at an era when quality reporting was the result of will and determination (and knowing the right contacts). An excellent choice for readers interested in late 20th-century politics.” Library Journal

Reporter is a captivating memoir that could inspire a new generation of journalists.” —Robert Weibezahl, BookPage

“There’s gripping journalistic intrigue aplenty as [Hersh] susses out sources and documents, fences with officials, and fields death threats. . . . Hersh himself is brash and direct, but never cynical, and his memoir is as riveting as the great journalistic exposés he produced.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Candid and revelatory . . . Compared to the contemporary field of blogs, bots, and opinion-driven reportage, the last half of the twentieth-century can look like the heyday of honest and critical journalism. But even now, Hersh remains at the vanguard of tenacious and purposeful writers who speak truth to power, and surely he’s inspiring the best at work now. Journalism junkies will devour this insider’s account of a distinguished career.” Booklist (starred review)

“Outstanding . . . Rarely has a journalist's memoir come together so well, with admirable measures of self-deprecation, transparent pride, readable prose style, and honesty.” Kirkus (starred review)

The New York Times Book Review - Alan Rusbridger

[Hersh] broke some of the biggest stories of his time. He fell out with editors. He threw typewriters through windows. He could be petulant, unreasonably stubborn and prudish. But, boy, could he report. His memoir is…a master class in the craft of reporting…His chosen areas of investigation were often the hardest to penetrate: He burrows away at the secrecy of the state, the military, intelligence, foreign policy and giant corporations. Over nearly six decades he exposed brutality, deception, torture, illegal surveillance, government-sponsored fake news and much else. More often than not—much more often—he was right. From the My Lai massacre of 1968 to the degrading treatment of detainees in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in 2003, Hersh delivered the goods…Will most future newsrooms ever again be in a position to allow their reporters the resources and time to do the kind of work that Hersh, in his prime, so magnificently produced? His memoir is a compelling argument for why they should.

Library Journal

05/15/2018
Recounting the story behind the story, running on conviction and sheer stubbornness, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hersh's investigation of the 1968 My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops in South Vietnam and the case against army officer William Calley Jr. often reads like a case study in how to write a political thriller. Between racing through military training camps, hand-copying files, and fighting skeptics, Hersh's account reveals the level of persistence that drives award-winning journalism. Going beyond the business of news, Hersh offers an insider look at Washington politics, recounting the people (Kissinger, Nixon) and events (Vietnam, Watergate) that put his stories on the front page, ending with a review of the War on Terror and reporting post-9/11. As Hersh notes, he is a "survivor from the golden age of journalism." VERDICT A fascinating look at an era when quality reporting was the result of will and determination (and knowing the right contacts). An excellent choice for readers interested in late 20th-century politics.—Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib., Miami

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307276612
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 369,786
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 1280L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

I am a survivor from the golden age of journalism, when reporters for daily newspapers did not have to compete with the twenty-four-hour cable news cycle, when newspapers were flush with cash from display advertisements and want ads, and when I was free to travel anywhere, anytime, for any reason, with company credit cards. There was sufficient time for reporting on a breaking news story without having to constantly relay what was being learned on the newspaper’s web page.

There were no televised panels of “experts” and journalists on cable TV who began every answer to every question with the two deadliest words in the media world—“I think.” We are sodden with fake news, hyped-up and incomplete information, and false assertions delivered nonstop by our daily newspapers, our televisions, our online news agencies, our social media, and our President.

Yes, it’s a mess. And there is no magic bullet, no savior in sight for the serious media. The mainstream newspapers, magazines, and television networks will continue to lay off reporters, reduce staff, and squeeze the funds available for good reporting, and especially for investigative reporting, with its high cost, unpredictable results, and its capacity for angering readers and attracting expensive lawsuits. The newspapers of today far too often rush into print with stories that are essentially little more than tips, or hints of something toxic or criminal. For lack of time, money, or skilled staff, we are besieged with “he said, she said” stories in which the reporter is little more than a parrot. I always thought it was a newspaper’s mission to search out the truth and not merely to report on the dispute. Was there a war crime? The newspapers now rely on a negotiated United Nations report that comes, at best, months later to tell us. And have the media made any significant effort to explain why a UN report is not considered to be the last word by many throughout the world? Is there much critical reporting at all about the UN? Do I dare ask about the war in Yemen? Or why Donald Trump took Sudan off his travel ban list? (The leadership in Khartoum sent troops to fight in Yemen on behalf of Saudi Arabia.)

My career has been all about the importance of telling important and unwanted truths and making America a more knowledgeable place. I was not alone in making a difference; think of David Halberstam, Charley Mohr, Ward Just, Neil Sheehan, Morley Safer, and dozens of other first-rate journalists who did so much to enlighten us about the seamy side of the Vietnam War. I know it would not be possible for me to be as freewheeling in today’s newspaper world as it was until a decade ago, when the money crunch began. I vividly remember the day when David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, called in 2011 to ask if I could do an interview with an important source by telephone rather than fly three thousand miles to do one in person. David, who did everything possible to support my reporting on the Abu Ghraib prison horror in 2004—he paid dearly to enable me to publish reporting pieces in three consecutive issues—made his plea to me in what I thought was a pained, embarrassed voice, almost a whisper.

Where are the tough stories today about America’s continuing Special Forces operations and the never-ending political divide in the Middle East, Central America, and Africa? Abuses surely continue— war is always hell—but today’s newspapers and networks simply cannot afford to keep correspondents in the field, and those that do— essentially The New York Times, where I worked happily for eight years in the 1970s, constantly making trouble—are not able to finance the long-term reporting that is needed to get deeply into the corruption of the military or intelligence world. As you will read herein, I spent two years before I was able to learn what I needed to report on the CIA’s illegal domestic spying in the 1960s and 1970s.

I do not pretend to have an answer to the problems of our media today. Should the federal government underwrite the media, as England does with the BBC? Ask Donald Trump about that. Should there be a few national newspapers financed by the public? If so, who would be eligible to buy shares in the venture? This is clearly the time to renew the debate on how to go forward. I had believed for years that all would work out, that the failing American newspapers would be supplanted by blogs, online news collectives, and weekly newspapers that would fill in the blanks on local reporting as well as on international and national news, but, despite a few successes—VICE, BuzzFeed, Politico, and Truthout come to mind—it isn’t happening; as a result, the media, like the nation, are more partisan and strident.

So, consider this memoir for what it is: an account of a guy who came from the Midwest, began his career as a copyboy for a small agency that covered crime, fires, and the courts there, and eleven years later, as a freelance reporter in Washington working for a small antiwar news agency, was sticking two fingers in the eye of a sitting president by telling about a horrific American massacre, and being rewarded for it. You do not have to tell me about the wonder, and the potential, of America. Perhaps that’s why it’s very painful to think I might not have accomplished what I did if I were at work in the chaotic and unstructured journalism world of today.

Of course I’m still trying.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Reporter"
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Copyright © 2019 Seymour M. Hersh.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
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