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The Journalist and the Murderer Paperback – October 31, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
-Judy Quinn, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
It was only after "Fatal Vision" was published that MacDonald discovered the truth. McGinniss did not believe in MacDonald's innocence; on the contrary, he portrays MacDonald as a psychopathic murderer. The author posed as a friend for the sole purpose of keeping MacDonald in the dark so that McGinniss would continue to have access to his subject. "Fatal Vision" became a huge bestseller and eventually became a miniseries. Malcolm's book, written in 1990, takes on added significance in 2003, when the ethics of journalists are under fire. Some have been accused of plagiarizing and fabricating stories. The public is beginning to recongnize that reporters are fallible and suffer from the same pressures, ambitions, and psychological disorders as other ordinary mortals.
This is not merely a condemnation of McGinniss's behavior towards MacDonald.Read more ›
Malcolm answers these questions (as much as she's able to) in the context of a murder trail that journalist Joe McGinniss wrote about, after being given unlimited access to accused murderer Jeffrey MacDonald and his defense team. McGinniss, originally sympathetic to MacDonald, comes to believe that he is guilty of the murder (the jury agreed), but does not reveal his change of heart to MacDonald, in order to maintain access to him. Once McGinniss's book, Fatal Vision, is published, MacDonald is horrified by the portrait presented to him and sues McGinniss for fraud.
Malcolm raises issues that I, a constant reader of journalism, had never considered. Her book gave me insight into what a writer must do to get the story. She's made me a less naïve reader. Those long articles in The New Yorker will never seem the same.
Determined to find another worthy subject, he tackled the case of Dr. Jeffrey McDonald, a man accused of killing his wife and children. That story became the bestselling FATAL VISION and this book, THE JOURNALIST AND THE MURDERER, chronicles the techniques that McGinniss used to get close to McDonald, and how he pretended to support McDonald through the years of legal proceedings although he always thought him to be guilty and wanted a guilty verdict for a better book. McGinniss' technique led to unfettered access to legal files, evidence, but most importantly access to McDonald. They'd drink together, strategize together and were pals during the experience.
The central question is how far can a journalist go to get the story? Although a jury found McDonald guilty of murder, a later jury found in favor of McDonald in his suit against McGuinniss because they felt that his techniques were so underhanded and self-serving that even a murderer deserved better. The book shows the divide between the win-at-any-cost media and the public that grows weary of the techniques used against people to create news. Does the public have the right to know enough that journalists can lie to subjects to bring the story to press?
This short book makes you question a number of journalistic techniques and it doesn't hurt either that McDonald has strong supporters and could possibly be innocent of the murders, at least in the context of this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a must read book for any non-fiction writer. It looks at the relationship between the journalist/writer and the subject and what happens when a writer crosses a line.Published 4 months ago by TABHairoun
Malcolm quotes too extensively from her interviews, but the book is overall a fascinating exploration of the psychology of journalism. Every journalist should read this book.Published 11 months ago by Lauren
I LOVED Fatal Vision and couldn't wait to dive more into the case. This book is boring.Published 11 months ago by akinker
What a marvelous book: penetrating, deft, and endlessly thought-provoking. I enjoyed every page!Published 13 months ago by P. Stern
Malcolm's meditation on the writer-subject relationship is superb and holds still true - maybe even more so - 30 years later.Published 14 months ago by A. Gill
Amazing book. The author explores the behaviour of a journalist who ingratiated himself into the life of a man (a doctor) on trial (and convicted) for murdering his wife. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Kissy