What happened then? Did Hersh, who would go on to uncover the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and become one of the greatest investigative journalists in U.S. history, sprint to his publication and demand that it run this explosive scoop?
No. Hersh spoke to his editor, who told him to do nothing, since it would be his word against the police. He didn’t try to interview the responsible cop or his partner, or dig much further. Instead, he gave up on it and soon headed off to do his required service in the Army, “full of despair at my weakness and the weakness of a profession that dealt so easily with compromise and self-censorship.” If Hersh were a superhero, this would be his origin story.
“Reporter” is simply one of the most compelling and significant books ever written about American journalism. Almost every page will tell you something you’ve never heard before about life on earth. Sometimes it’s Hersh elaborating on what he’s already published; sometimes it’s new stories he felt he couldn’t write about when he first learned of them; and sometimes it’s the world’s most intriguing, peculiar gossip.
Most notably, there’s a tale about Lyndon B. Johnson on page 201 that everyone deserves to encounter without spoilers. Even Donald Trump has never expressed his contempt for the media with such, let’s say, vivacity. Journalists will come away from it extremely grateful that all Trump does is tweet.
Click to read Jon Schwarz’s full review of Reporter, A Memoir