Contra Janet Malcolm, not all journalists are betrayers

The great New Yorker/New York Review of Books writer/author Janet Malcolm threw down like a rapper on journalism in one of her most famous works, The Journalist and the Murderer.

This post will grapples a bit with this contention, but simply as a writer, one has to respect the ferocity of her lede.


“Morally indefensible?” “Treachery?”

I understand that Malcolm gestures grandly to make a point to one and all. I know too that the people I write about are not murderers or politicians running for president, and the stakes are correspondingly lower, and perhaps, the people less in need of betraying. But still, with all due respect to Ms. Malcolm, journalism can be defended and actually commendable. Or so I am told. Alasdair Coyne is one of the reasons Ojai isn’t like every other place — and numerous neighbors have thanked me for writing about him. In this case, journalism is a way of paying attention to heroism. I feel someone should make this boring but necessary and truthful point on line.

5 thoughts on “Contra Janet Malcolm, not all journalists are betrayers

  1. Let’s just say you’re at the opposite end of journalism than Ms. Malcolm. I remember her slicing and dicing of psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson when it was first published in “The New Yorker,” and thought it “treacherous and morally indefensible” at the time. None of her pieces since then have made me change my mind about her journalistic methods.

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