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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 stories--riveting 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 stories--riveting in their own right--as 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.


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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 stories--riveting 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 stories--riveting in their own right--as 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.

30 review for Reporter: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This is an incredible memoir about journalism and American politics. Seymour Hersh, perhaps most famous for his reporting on the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, tells the story of how he got his start in news and shares fascinating stories about the events he's covered in the last five decades. My favorite sections were Hersh's reporting in Vietnam — especially the story of how he tracked down the various people involved in My Lai — Hersh's experiences covering politics in Washington, an This is an incredible memoir about journalism and American politics. Seymour Hersh, perhaps most famous for his reporting on the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, tells the story of how he got his start in news and shares fascinating stories about the events he's covered in the last five decades. My favorite sections were Hersh's reporting in Vietnam — especially the story of how he tracked down the various people involved in My Lai — Hersh's experiences covering politics in Washington, and his perspective on our national security agencies. It was especially illuminating to read about the corruption of the Richard Nixon administration in the Age of Trump. (Speaking of Nixon, is there a more loathed figure in this book than Henry Kissinger? Not even Hersh's harsh words for Donald Rumsfeld come close to how he felt about Kissinger.) Sure, one could read this book and despair about the current state of the news media. Or you could read this book and pay attention to all of the times Hersh himself was fighting to get his stories published — even the good old days of journalism still had their problems. I'm grateful Hersh wrote this memoir, and I hope it helps to inspire the next generation of reporters. Highly recommended. Opening Passage 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I love what Hersh has done for America and for journalism. He is one of the great investigative journalists of our time. I sort of wish I hadn't read this memoir because he comes off as kind of a self-important asshole. I suppose you would have to be to break so many stories, but he seems to distrust everybody and do a lot of fighting.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Someone reviewed this book saying they thought he came of as a self important asshole and that’s exactly what I thought he was not. We need smart and persistent investigative reporters, and those likely to be good at it will be loners, with confidence in their abilities and methods, and hopefully, like Hersh, rigorous and honest. I found him charming in his way. He worked well with editors and reporters he trusted but moved at his own pace and following his instincts. He would not be particularl Someone reviewed this book saying they thought he came of as a self important asshole and that’s exactly what I thought he was not. We need smart and persistent investigative reporters, and those likely to be good at it will be loners, with confidence in their abilities and methods, and hopefully, like Hersh, rigorous and honest. I found him charming in his way. He worked well with editors and reporters he trusted but moved at his own pace and following his instincts. He would not be particularly easy to work with and he was certainly persistent. I was amazed at his persistence in finding and talking to Calley about My Lai. I’m sure I would having given up. So would most others. I also appreciated his efforts to protect informants, selfishly in part, but out of concern to protect his sources. I can’t wait to read his book on Cheney! But tonight I just ordered the Kissinger book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Roy

    Seymour Hersh has done an excellent job of reporting for decades and this memoir explains what steps and approaches he has used to break into and expose events and people that were intensely contrary to public norms and assumptions, including the first, the My Lai Massacre. His "secret"? He is persistent; he is impatiently patient; he researches the hell out of events and people; he tells the truth, including to people he is exposing; he keeps his word when he promises secrecy and cover to sourc Seymour Hersh has done an excellent job of reporting for decades and this memoir explains what steps and approaches he has used to break into and expose events and people that were intensely contrary to public norms and assumptions, including the first, the My Lai Massacre. His "secret"? He is persistent; he is impatiently patient; he researches the hell out of events and people; he tells the truth, including to people he is exposing; he keeps his word when he promises secrecy and cover to sources too centrally involved to be exposed without catastrophic consequences (to the point of deciding not to write about something); he uses everything and everybody he knows to get at the details of a story; he relies on documentable facts, keeping his opinions and judgments to himself;* he trusts his intuition and lets it inform him (when someone is dissembling or when the picture is unfinished). As a result of his aim at telling the factual truth about what has happened and because of his commitment of anonymity to sources, he has gathered inside sources that have provided invaluable information. One feature he notes is that at least some inside sources are motivated because they, too, want the truth to be known and are disturbed by official "truths" sufficiently to either seek Hersh out or to talk and share documents when he contacts them. This college of contacts enables him to go into a story fully armed, so to say, against critics who reflexively accuse him of lying (the "fake news" label that is currently being used). This does not guarantee he is always accurate, as he explains. But it does up the odds that when he brings a story, it will be deftly on target. Because every scandal he has covered has threatened certain principals at the heart of the scandal, he has been fought hard by major players, including presidential level staff and politicians, by big guns in the military, by other journalists (including sometimes his own editors), and (according to him), the worst, major international corporations. This last note is highly relevant to many of the struggles that are being played out today. To me, trained and experienced in psychotherapy, his stories reveal the power that shame and the fear of shame have over our lives. Shame is one of nine innate emotions, present from birth, and in its raw form, it is unbearable. The reasons for its unbearability have to do with our evolved nature as a highly social creature; being excluded from ones group can feel like a form of dying. My Lai, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and so on, are messy events full of the potential to shame; and the revelations Hersh brought to light were indeed quite shaming. Another facet of Hersh's account is the reinforcement of the understanding that no group that has power over others can function without accountability to the wider public. My Lai, for example, was but one piece of a widespread and brutal slide by soldiers into barbaric behavior where there was no accountability from the ground up and the top down. (I believe the likelihood of this deterioration is most likely universal, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, political beliefs, and so on.) When the truth is hidden, then all parts of our souls are also hidden for our soul is woven out of the truth. So, the truth does set all of us free even as getting to it can feel like rolling in flames. So, I say, thank you, Brother Hersh, you have made a real difference for the better of humanity in our society and at this time. I hope that others will join me in this appreciation and, more important, pass these "secrets" on! *I would argue, and I'm sure I'm not alone, that even the decision to write about something reflects an opinion and a judgement. In the case of Hersh, when he chooses to pursue a story, it is because he feels it is something that needs to be told to a wider audience and most typically, these are events where there has been an abuse of power by some individual or group that has done serious damage to others and that has been hidden from view either totally or by an account that is not true. If you are part of the group that Hersh is pursuing, likely the values that inform your decisions are self-protection from being shamed and from being destroyed (that is, taken apart, de-structured). The support of the Common Good requires the former values, employed in as respectful a manner as possible.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This is an incredible book by an indefatigable researcher/interviewer/writer. I had previously read Hersh's Dark Side of Camelot, which was depressing but demythologized Jack and Bobby Kennedy, when by far the most books about them had been hagiographies. This book is a play-by-play story of Hersh's career, with some revelations about presidential misuse of power going all the way back to Eisenhower. Hersh has been so successful as a writer, first for the NY Times and later for The New Yorker. On This is an incredible book by an indefatigable researcher/interviewer/writer. I had previously read Hersh's Dark Side of Camelot, which was depressing but demythologized Jack and Bobby Kennedy, when by far the most books about them had been hagiographies. This book is a play-by-play story of Hersh's career, with some revelations about presidential misuse of power going all the way back to Eisenhower. Hersh has been so successful as a writer, first for the NY Times and later for The New Yorker. One of his secrets is that he has never betrayed a source, which makes more sources likely to trust him. There are things mentioned in this book that he cannot reveal the sources for, which I find admirable. The threats he has suffered also give a sense of the man's courage. The thing that most stayed with me about this book is the pettiness and willingness to grovel to the government line that major newspapers have exhibited. Hersh details stories that appeared in the Times that were nearly direct quotes from Henry Kissinger, who had obviously seen them before they were published the next day. That put a cynical look at freedom of the press. Hersh also characterizes editors of major newspapers who were self-censoring because of their fears of government disapproval. But the thing that shocked me most was the degree to which certain CIA actions, for instance, were actually ordered by the president and then lied about. This happened with a number of presidents, not just Richard Nixon. I was amazed at the detail Hersh uncovered about major lies that were being perpetrated on the public, but terribly disappointed that there has been so much secrecy and denial from the executive branch. It's a sad state of affairs when you can't trust your own government to tell you the truth, and Hersh shows that happening over and over, with many different administrations. This is a brilliant book and a real eye-opener.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Interesting read and walk down memory lane. Considering the current political climate, there were times the book lessened my pessimism by reminding me of some of the horrors which our nation somehow managed to survive—- And yet also at times deepened my pessimism as I was reminded that we American citizens seem to simply move on without seriously taking stock of our country’s most shameful episodes. Will we ever “move on” from—much less take stock of —these trump years. Or will we in future look Interesting read and walk down memory lane. Considering the current political climate, there were times the book lessened my pessimism by reminding me of some of the horrors which our nation somehow managed to survive—- And yet also at times deepened my pessimism as I was reminded that we American citizens seem to simply move on without seriously taking stock of our country’s most shameful episodes. Will we ever “move on” from—much less take stock of —these trump years. Or will we in future look back and think that these trump years weren’t so bad, as we try to survive worse things to come? Will we ever recover from the Bush/Cheney years? Was anything lasting learned from the Church committee or from My Lai? From Abu Ghraib? I look forward to future investigative reporting by Mr Hersh, and to the promised Cheney book. Does the truth matter? Wonderful book, highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Zebulynn Hanson

    This guy is an American hero. He really tells it like it is. Reporters like this make the world a better place.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James

    Crusading journalist consistently proven right Hersh’s book is an inspiring account of defying conventional wisdom and political pressure to uncover truth no matter how hidden it is.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Seymour Hersh's reporting on foreign policy, national security and intelligence affairs has been required reading for decades. A described lone wolf, Hersh has had numerous relationships with major news organizations, notably the New York Times and the New Yorker, but his real strength has been the tenacious and patient network of sources he's developed and kept active long after one major story has passed...helping lead him to the next one. Hersh's memoir, Reporter, opens with his very basic Chi Seymour Hersh's reporting on foreign policy, national security and intelligence affairs has been required reading for decades. A described lone wolf, Hersh has had numerous relationships with major news organizations, notably the New York Times and the New Yorker, but his real strength has been the tenacious and patient network of sources he's developed and kept active long after one major story has passed...helping lead him to the next one. Hersh's memoir, Reporter, opens with his very basic Chicago beginnings. His father ran a dry-cleaning store and for a time it looked as though Hersh would be saddled running it indefinitely after his father's death. But that was impossible. He was too smart not to be noticed by mentors who helped enroll him in the University of Chicago and then move through the news networks in the Midwest to Washington and ultimately to the world. In wonderfully vivid, clear, fast-paced prose, Hersh takes us through his major breakthrough--reporting on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam--to Watergate stories, CIA exposés, the Abu Ghraib atrocities in Iraq, etc. He's often more kind to editors he worked for than they were to him. I can only deduce that Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times was jealous of him, for example. But even though investigative journalism, of which he is the great master, is a rough business, he has reached his eighth decade still marveling at his partners and rivals in reporting, giving credit where credit is due to journalists like Bob Woodward. One of the mysteries of investigative journalism is why it's necessary. It's hard to believe that JFK or LBJ or Nixon or Henry Kissinger or a handful of CIA directors so often decided that lying and deceit were the best way to deal with their misjudgments and mistakes. (Today Donald Trump takes this practice to an extreme, a fool like no fool in the history of the Republic.) But the truth about Vietnam or overthrowing Allende in Chile or letting prison guards turn into torturers in Iraq (while CIA officers became torturers at black sites around the world) always has been too much for our leaders to frankly admit. Enter reporters like Hersh, looking for leads, documents, quotes, and concrete evidence that are absolutely essential for a democracy to confront. Reporter tells the tale of telling the tale. It's fascinating. Did Syria under Assad have to become what it has become? Hersh makes us wonder about that. Has there ever been a worse ally than Pakistan (or now, Saudi Arabia)? Hersh squares up on that question, too. He's not preachy, he's not pompous, he's a reporter, and a great one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dick Reynolds

    One thing clear about this book is that writing a newspaper story is easy. Yes, it’s easy, but only if you have all the information you need to write it. And that’s the rub as Hersh shows in his memoir. On so many of his memorable stories such as the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, and the various missteps of the CIA, the difficulty was gathering all the facts in spite of our own military and government trying to hide these stories from seeing the light of day. There’s a lot One thing clear about this book is that writing a newspaper story is easy. Yes, it’s easy, but only if you have all the information you need to write it. And that’s the rub as Hersh shows in his memoir. On so many of his memorable stories such as the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, and the various missteps of the CIA, the difficulty was gathering all the facts in spite of our own military and government trying to hide these stories from seeing the light of day. There’s a lot of leg work involved in gathering such facts including the knack of knowing just where to go and who to talk with. Hersh clearly mastered these techniques early in his career and put them to good purpose like the Mai Lai story which won him a Pulitzer Prize. When all the facts are gathered and the writing commences, what’s the next step? Convincing your editor that you have the complete story and the newspaper won’t be sued for libel is a start. Many times in his career Hersh’s editor decided to kill the story or save it for another time. Perhaps it was for the best but only history can give a clear answer to that conundrum. There were many occasions when Hersh tried to learn the facts for his story but was deceived by high-ranking military and government officials. Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney are two examples who are exposed in this book. The cynic in me believes that this ugly habit of hiding important information from the American public is still going on today in our own Federal government. One has to wonder: Will they ever learn? On a personal note, I learned a lot about the business of print journalism. When I was a boy my father was a reporter for the East St. Louis Journal and the St. Louis Globe Democrat. Later in his career he was the editor of Midwest Labor World, a house organ for the Teamsters Union. Thanks to Hersh’s book I have a much better understanding and appreciation of what my father did in those days.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Behle

    Deftly narrated by Arthur Morey, the CD audiobook edition entertained and interested me for a week of July 2020. Solid three star-I liked it. It's just long enough. Hersh is a tough bulldog reporter. Proud and fearless, his writing is purposeful. He sharpens the arrowhead on each sentence and lets fly. He has lots of axes to grind. Hersh, the quintessential iconoclast, pulls back the curtain on the major news events of the past 60 years. There is personal reflection as well. Some of my favorite pa Deftly narrated by Arthur Morey, the CD audiobook edition entertained and interested me for a week of July 2020. Solid three star-I liked it. It's just long enough. Hersh is a tough bulldog reporter. Proud and fearless, his writing is purposeful. He sharpens the arrowhead on each sentence and lets fly. He has lots of axes to grind. Hersh, the quintessential iconoclast, pulls back the curtain on the major news events of the past 60 years. There is personal reflection as well. Some of my favorite passages are of his upbringing in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, toiling, stocking shelves in a Walgreens. I salute his dedication to unearthing the facts.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Seymour Hersh is an honored investigative reporter that I've long admired. I enjoyed listening to his life story. Reminiscing about the past presidential administrations and the people who advised those presidents. He developed meaningful relationships and was known as a straight shooter. One caveat, the narrator mispronounced several names.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    Must read memoir by the legendary reporter. Worth reading in its entirety but the section on William Calley is absolutely outstanding. And don't miss his side-splitting account of the failing NY TIMES dismissing him as "loud, insistent, and charmless." I think they meant to say "pushy!"

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marc Ballon

    Seymour Hersh's "Reporter: A Memoir," is nothing less than a masterclass in journalism. In his taut-but-engaging prose, the best investigative reporter of our time details some of his biggest scoops and the government incompetence surrounding them, ranging from the My Lai massacre in Vietnam to Watergate to the torture of American-held Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Hersh shows the importance of hard-nosed journalism in holding officials accountable and helping our democracy function. With blogs Seymour Hersh's "Reporter: A Memoir," is nothing less than a masterclass in journalism. In his taut-but-engaging prose, the best investigative reporter of our time details some of his biggest scoops and the government incompetence surrounding them, ranging from the My Lai massacre in Vietnam to Watergate to the torture of American-held Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Hersh shows the importance of hard-nosed journalism in holding officials accountable and helping our democracy function. With blogs, opinion screed and Fake News such as Bretibart and Fox News on the ascendancy, I worry about our country's future, as does Hersh.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    Seymour Hersh is probably not everyone's favorite colleague, but he's a damn fine investigative journalist. In our current era where even bloggers fancy themselves as serious journalist, it was fascinating to read about Hersh's rise in the ranks of journalism from cub reporter to breaking stories nobody wanted to publish at first---particularly his Pulitzer prize winning piece regarding the My Lai massacre which was rejected repeatedly. Anyone fascinated with mid-to late twentieth-century histor Seymour Hersh is probably not everyone's favorite colleague, but he's a damn fine investigative journalist. In our current era where even bloggers fancy themselves as serious journalist, it was fascinating to read about Hersh's rise in the ranks of journalism from cub reporter to breaking stories nobody wanted to publish at first---particularly his Pulitzer prize winning piece regarding the My Lai massacre which was rejected repeatedly. Anyone fascinated with mid-to late twentieth-century histor would enjoy this one and it's a must for anyone interested in investigative journalism.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lysergius

    Ah to have been a reporter for the NYT. That is something. Hersh scooped My Lai, Watergate, the CIA's domestic spying programme and a host of other stories until the death of journalism in the time of Trump. This is a great read told with a certain amount of bragging and large doses of modesty. The search for the truth can be all consuming and it is a testament to Hersh's balance that he kept it all together.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Reporter by Seymour Hersh review – memoir of a giant of journalism.The reporter who exposed the My Lai massacre and the CIA’s illegal domestic spying in the 1970s continues to be a rebel outsider Reporter by Seymour Hersh review – memoir of a giant of journalism.The reporter who exposed the My Lai massacre and the CIA’s illegal domestic spying in the 1970s continues to be a rebel outsider

  18. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Spanning over five decades and earning numerous prestigious awards, Seymour Hersh's career in investigative journalism is an impressive achievement. Unsurprisingly, this memoir, looking back on its entirety to date, makes for a fascinating read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Clif

    It's undeniable that those who possess wealth and power will defend that wealth and power and too often at the expense of truth. It's also undeniable that there is a human tendency to think of oneself in a positive light that can have little or nothing to do with reality. The more wealth and power one has, the probability increases that there will be little connection with those less fortunate even as one's power over them increases. Combine this with the praise and submission of these with whom It's undeniable that those who possess wealth and power will defend that wealth and power and too often at the expense of truth. It's also undeniable that there is a human tendency to think of oneself in a positive light that can have little or nothing to do with reality. The more wealth and power one has, the probability increases that there will be little connection with those less fortunate even as one's power over them increases. Combine this with the praise and submission of these with whom one does have daily contact and it's easy to understand how a person can feel both superior to others and fully deserving of power and position over them. This explains why it is a necessity to have regulation and restraint. In 2018, the American people are standing by as their president eases regulation and restraint on wealth/power right in front of their eyes with no apology. Traditionally, journalism has been the investigator of wealth and power, in America providing a shining example of it during the Vietnam War. Even though major newspapers have always been owned by the wealthy, there has been a sense of obligation to the truth and the profession that has been an invaluable boon to the American people. Now, with the collapse of newspapers and the rise of cable news with its dangerous pairing of simplistic emotional presentation and brevity, we the people are poorly served. Seymour Hersh says that he was born to be a reporter. This book is his testimony to what an insatiable curiosity and a desire to know the truth can do when supported by employers who have the courage to stand behind truth telling. From his early years working for a newspaper pool in Chicago through his time dealing with My Lai, Watergate, the CIA and the capture of bin Laden, Hersh provides an adventure we can all enjoy while at the same time learning new bits of truth along the way. You can feel his exhilaration. As you'd expect, Hersh blows his own horn, but usually in a humorous way and with his accomplishments who can deny him the pleasure? His unwavering dedication to the confidentiality of his sources paired with his skill at making a case for publication to his superiors make him the go-to guy for whistle-blowers, particularly retirees from government service. As he says, there is no shortage of conscientious, dedicated people in the services and government that chafe under what they see being done to deceive or deny information to the public. Hersh digs out sources, finds an address or a phone number and goes right to the person he wants to hear from, willing to risk rejection on the outside chance that he will get an interview. As time goes on and his reputation builds this process becomes easier. He holds himself to a standard, keeping his own political views separate from the story his interviewees have to tell. His pursuit of Lt. Calley of My Lai fame is epic. Reporter moves rapidly, but I dare anyone to read it without being attracted (distracted?) by articles, let alone books Hersh has written that he mentions along the way. In particular, I recommend the piece he wrote for the London Review of Books on the capture of bin Laden. See if, like me, you had been under a false impression of what happened in that event. There is plenty of inspiration here for those who want to work in journalism. Learning about Hersh's modus operandi not the least of it. My hope is young people will read this book and get excited about what a reporter can do if motivated and fearless. We sorely need many more hard working messengers like Seymour Hersh, who, by the way, is not done yet. He's working on a book about Dick Cheney but took time out to do this book as the words of people key to the Cheney book are still in power. As Reporter will inform you, the retirement or death of witnesses can work well for a reporter who needs the testimony of people afraid for their careers should the truth be known.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    A very good book, primarily about how Sy did his work, then about some of the specific projects, such as My Lai, Watergate, the CIA domestic spying and on to Abu Ghraib. As part of this, Hersh reveals how he landed at the NYT, why he moved on, how he landed for his second and main stint at the New Yorker, why he left (he thought Remnick writing a bio of Obama was an ethical bright line), and bits of how he landed at the London Review of Books and then moved past it to Die Welt. With LRB, it wasn' A very good book, primarily about how Sy did his work, then about some of the specific projects, such as My Lai, Watergate, the CIA domestic spying and on to Abu Ghraib. As part of this, Hersh reveals how he landed at the NYT, why he moved on, how he landed for his second and main stint at the New Yorker, why he left (he thought Remnick writing a bio of Obama was an ethical bright line), and bits of how he landed at the London Review of Books and then moved past it to Die Welt. With LRB, it wasn't fact-checking as the deal-breaker; he says he thought he was being asked for facts that were trivial or irrelevant to the story he had produced. That said, he more than once appreciates the work of Remnick in particular and editors in general. He admits they've helped him, on suggesting specific additional information, getting people to go on the record rather than just background, and on tightening things up. (He indirectly indicates that his writing tends to wander at times and so he needs that type of editing help as well.) At the New Yorker and LRB, he also says he appreciates the degree of fact-checking work. It's a shame that his Cheney bio was derailed. Hersh, presumably as a good protector of sources, doesn't shed more light on that. But, we get this instead. For long-time readers of him, there's not a lot of new spill the beans stuff. (I can see voting it 4 stars instead of 5 because of this, but 3? No.) He does mention that Clean Gene McCarthy was a CIA bagman for JFK; he may have mentioned that in Dark Side of Camelot, but it's been a long time since I read that. He also mentions three documented instances of Dick Nixon hitting Pat, the first when he lost the Cal governor's race, the second in the White House and the third just after arriving in San Clemente after his resignation. Hersh says he heard about the third in real time, then, working sources, got info about the other two. Obviously, he didn't report it. He mentioned it to the public for the first time at a 1998 Harvard event, and was rightly called out by many women in attendance as domestic violence is a crime. One thing that is missing, other than the broadest of overviews about the Trump Administration, is Ed Butowsky's attempt to entangle Hersh in the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. Hersh didn't bite on Rich being murdered as a coverup, but he did appear to believe then that Rich stole the emails. (Confession: As I blogged at the time https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2..., so did I, but I backed away from that within six months. I don't know where Sy is, and if he's not commented further on advice of counsel given all the lawsuits involved here.)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rene Saller

    It's hard not to read this book as an elegy for investigative journalism. Highly recommended, especially if you're too young to remember the days when ensuring access and sucking up to those in power were considered unprincipled. The kind of journalism that Sy Hersh practices is going to be extinct soon, if it isn't already. I wonder how many My Lai-style massacres have gone ignored because no one has the budget or the dogged bravery to keep rooting out the lies and propaganda. By the way, if yo It's hard not to read this book as an elegy for investigative journalism. Highly recommended, especially if you're too young to remember the days when ensuring access and sucking up to those in power were considered unprincipled. The kind of journalism that Sy Hersh practices is going to be extinct soon, if it isn't already. I wonder how many My Lai-style massacres have gone ignored because no one has the budget or the dogged bravery to keep rooting out the lies and propaganda. By the way, if you don't thoroughly loathe the lying, murderous mercenary hack Henry Kissinger, you will by the time you have finished reading this book. My only complaint is that Seymour Hersh didn't read the audiobook himself. The narrator did a decent job and even seems to have a similar accent and intonation, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if the book were read in Hersh's own voice. Others have noted that the memoir is oddly impersonal in many ways--we know he loves his wife and kids, but he provides only the barest details about his domestic situation, for instance--but I dgaf, as the kids type, because Hersh is always all about the story. I have known reporters like him, reporters who seem to be truly alive only when they're following a lead. I'm not one of them, but I respect the tribe. He should feel proud of all the critical news stories that he has broken, and we should all feel outraged that the kind of journalism he practices is all but dead now. So he gloats a little while quoting his admirers. He's entitled. Besides, many of us sincerely enjoy reading about how leads turn into sources and sources turn into whistleblowers. I'm glad that Hersh has enjoyed such a long and productive career. He gets to look back now, but I hope he keeps writing. It really bums me out that The New Yorker doesn't seem to value his contributions as much as it used to, but what do I know about paying for real journalism? All I know is that the guy who covered Abu Ghraib for them deserves to have more of a presence in the magazine.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John

    The title of Seymour Hersh’s memoir is simply 'Reporter'. It’s what he did and what he does: dig out and report important facts that need to be seen in the daylight, no matter how much the CIA, a US vice-president or secretary of state, or a mafia boss, may want to keep them hidden. Hersh, as the editor of the New Yorker says on the book’s cover, is ‘quite simply the greatest investigative journalist of his era’. It was Hersh who uncovered the facts of the My Lai massacre that occurred in Vietna The title of Seymour Hersh’s memoir is simply 'Reporter'. It’s what he did and what he does: dig out and report important facts that need to be seen in the daylight, no matter how much the CIA, a US vice-president or secretary of state, or a mafia boss, may want to keep them hidden. Hersh, as the editor of the New Yorker says on the book’s cover, is ‘quite simply the greatest investigative journalist of his era’. It was Hersh who uncovered the facts of the My Lai massacre that occurred in Vietnam in 1968, and revealed not only the full horror of what took place but also that the officer named as the culprit, Lieutenant William Calley, was operating in a context where such treatment of Vietnamese civilians was tolerated and even expected. Hersh was the reporter whom The New York Times belatedly sent in to investigate Watergate after the pioneering exposures made by Woodward and Bernstein at the Washington Post. His book on Henry Kissinger told the truth about many of the latter’s outright lies and illegal activities. He exposed the fact that the CIA was – contrary to the law – conducting massive surveillance of anti-war movements in the United States. Later, he showed the falsity of the case for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and went on to expose the disgraceful torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. As one official told him, ‘the rules are: ”Grab whom you must. Do what you want.” The US had resumed the assassination or attempted assassination of its enemies, despite its illegality. As Hersh had shown much earlier in his career, John Kennedy had directly authorised attempts to kill Fidel Castro; in the 1980s the US had financed death squads in El Salvador (whose victims at different times included Bishop Romero as well as US citizens), and now US agents were killing with even less discrimination in the Middle East. When, much more recently, the Obama government tracked down and killed Osama Bin Laden, Hersh was able to show that – far from being a heroic solo effort by the US forces involved – the action required close collaboration with Pakistani intelligence who effectively had the target and his family trapped in their compound before the attack took place (I was able to hear an affable Seymour Hersh give his account of this investigation in a talk at the London Review of Books). Towards the end of his memoir, Hersh bemoans the demise of the kind of journalism that became his hallmark. As he puts it: ‘I watched over the next years as the American media, overwhelmed by twenty-four-hour news, would increasingly rely in a crisis on the immediate claims of a White House and a politically compliant intelligence community. Skepticism, the instinct that drives much investigative reporting, would diminish even more after Barack Obama, full of hope and promise, took office in early 2009.’ Nowhere has this assessment been truer than in the coverage by the media of events in Latin America. Where now are reporters of the ilk of Gary Webb, who uncovered the drug trafficking that financed the US-sponsored Contra attacks against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the 1980s, struggled to get into print with his revelations, and was eventually described by The New York Times as a journalist ‘betrayed… by his own calling’? Who is exposing the actions of the US government in propping up despotic governments in Honduras and Haiti (where, as one of Hersh’s government contacts put it, the US works on the side of the torturers – or ‘the nail pullers,’ as the informant graphically describes them). Who is exposing the clandestine operations of the CIA and other US agencies in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and the other countries that are trying to follow a different path from US-imposed neoliberalism? The answer is that it is no longer The New York Times or the Washington Post (both newspapers put the blame on Evo Morales for the coup in Bolivia, exactly as the Trump administration would have wanted). Only rarely in the UK is it The Guardian, for example some of the freelance work by Nina Lakhani. Instead, the burden of scepticism has been adopted by online media such as The Intercept, Mintpress or The Grayzone, where inevitably it is more easily disregarded. These and larger outlets such as Telesur can also be dismissed by traditional media as being partisan, rather than being straightforward seekers of truth in the Hersh mould. The reality is that deeply researched, balanced and incisive commentary is in very short supply, and too often the interested observer has to triangulate between right-wing and left-wing viewpoints in the hope of arriving at something close to the truth. Nicaragua provides many recent examples of the demise of investigative journalism. One comes from the New Yorker, where Seymour Hersh was once its most distinguished reporter. Jon Lee Anderson, a writer on Latin America who should know better, eulogised Nicaraguan journalist and leading opponent of the Nicaraguan government, Carlos Chamorro, in a lengthy piece for the magazine. “Once again,” Chamorro told him, “journalists are on the front lines.” Written at the start of the crisis in April 2018, an investigative piece by Anderson could have encouraged more balanced reporting about the attempt to overthrow the Ortega government that was then underway. But not only does he accept what Chamorro tells him, he makes no apparent attempt to investigate who is funding him nor to check whether his interpretation is correct. His piece largely repeats what opposition sources told him. Months later, the title of another Anderson piece for the New Yorker refers sardonically to the ‘fake news’ he was warned against by one government supporter, but instead of checking whether what he was told about Masaya (the city where I live) was accurate, he does indeed repeat the fake news that the protestors there were armed only with ‘homemade mortars and slingshots’. How then did they hold the police station under siege for several weeks, making nightly attacks that killed three policemen and injured many others? Seymour Hersh often refers to the rigour with which his articles were fact-checked, especially those he wrote for the New Yorker. I don’t know how if he paid much attention to last year’s events in Nicaragua, but I suspect that if he did he would question whether any ‘investigative journalism’ took place at all. As he nears retirement, he and his peers are sadly missed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Ahmad

    This book is tragic more than anything else. The last chapter of the book ends with such a glaring lie that it casts a shadow of doubt over everything that Hersh said before. Hersh falsely claims that at a press conference General Mattis claimed that he didn't have evidence that Bashar al Assad was responsible for the April 2017 chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun. If true, this would support Hersh's theory about the incident. Except, Mattis said no such thing. Hersh is reproducing a claim by a co This book is tragic more than anything else. The last chapter of the book ends with such a glaring lie that it casts a shadow of doubt over everything that Hersh said before. Hersh falsely claims that at a press conference General Mattis claimed that he didn't have evidence that Bashar al Assad was responsible for the April 2017 chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun. If true, this would support Hersh's theory about the incident. Except, Mattis said no such thing. Hersh is reproducing a claim by a conspiracy theorist named Ian Wilkie that was widely disseminated by Russian media. The report was false, since Mattis was speak about recent reports of chemical attack in 2018 for which he had no evidence. Many of Hersh's earlier claims also strain credulity. He did some good reporting in the past, but in between he also did some terrible reporting. He is extremely cynical about governments in Washington, but almost worshipful in his praise for Bashar al Assad and Hassan Nasrallah (and, in breach of journalistic ethics, or perhaps aware of his own complicity, he didn't reveal the fact that Bashar al Assad had used him as an alibi while Rafiq Hariri was being assassinated). Overall this is the story of a parvenu who, driven by ambition more than anything else, was capable of doing good reporting as long as there was an editor to fact-check his claims and strip the rumours.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Sy Hersh is one of the most legendary reporters of our time. He's also gruff, hotheaded, and not exactly known for being personable. He spoke to a small group of students and professors at Medill last spring. I could not follow anything he was saying. I didn't know if the problem was me, and I didn't know all the context of his great reporting on the My Lai massacre and Vietnam. But my classmates assured me later that his manner of speaking was so all over the place it was impossible to follow. Sy Hersh is one of the most legendary reporters of our time. He's also gruff, hotheaded, and not exactly known for being personable. He spoke to a small group of students and professors at Medill last spring. I could not follow anything he was saying. I didn't know if the problem was me, and I didn't know all the context of his great reporting on the My Lai massacre and Vietnam. But my classmates assured me later that his manner of speaking was so all over the place it was impossible to follow. In that room, in podcast interviews, everywhere. He started stories he didn't finish and picked up other stories in the middle that he never started. But I felt like I had missed something. I'm glad to report that Hersh is a much better writer than speaker. Much of this book was really compelling, following him on investigations and learning a lot about foreign policy and Vietnam. He keeps the book focused on work, but his early years in Chicago are interesting too and his hotheaded personality does shine through. After we get through Vietnam and Nixon though, the book doesn't feel like it has a clear anchor. The next forty years of history go by in far fewer pages, but it's a slower read. Lots of references to individual stories that are hard to track because we so quickly move on to the next one. I guess memoirs are like that though? Not every part of your professional life needs the same level of depth. Anyway, it was a good book. But some parts were stronger than others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joseph J.

    A memoir of a time of relentless and dogged reporting. And indeed toward the final pages Seymour Hersh is critical of out 24 hour cable news cycle and its effect on the reporters trade. Hersh paid his dues early on in the community newspaper arena, but eventually made it to Washington past the mid-20th century and into the questioning and disruptive times of Vietnam and Watergate. For me the heart of the book is his relentless pursuit of the My Lai massacre story; the event and his relentless pu A memoir of a time of relentless and dogged reporting. And indeed toward the final pages Seymour Hersh is critical of out 24 hour cable news cycle and its effect on the reporters trade. Hersh paid his dues early on in the community newspaper arena, but eventually made it to Washington past the mid-20th century and into the questioning and disruptive times of Vietnam and Watergate. For me the heart of the book is his relentless pursuit of the My Lai massacre story; the event and his relentless pursuit of William Calley are riveting. THIS WAS JOURNALISM. And the big boys in the press establishment wouldn't touch it! A thread through this book is Hersh's constant tension with establishment big time journalism, most notably his love-hate relationship with NYTimes managing editor Abe Rosenthal. When Hersh finally makes it to NYTimes headquarters-well a typewriter is thrown through a window! Hersh's reporting is a world of government contacts in the Pentagon and yes the White House. Those he offends include Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and Henry Kissinger and those who idolize the myth of the Kennedy Camelot; there is a priceless moment in time of one time media darling Donald Rumsfield. Hersh reflects on what should be reported in echoing and expanding allegations that Richard Nixon was a wife beater; former Nixon aide and Watergate convict John Ehrlichman is a source. If found the book heavy going in the final pages until Hersh's trip to My Lai, and its museum decades after the mass slaughter. The curator/guide survived the killings as a boy, but the trauma-the wounds-remain too deep for words. I question in the final pages when, describing a warm meeting with New York Cardinal John O'Connor, Hersh refers to the late Francis Cardinal Spellman as a friend of JFK. My reading has it that the powerful Spellman-a Roy Crohn crony who died in 1967-had been a friend of Joseph P. Kennedy but Spellman's Republican politics and not quite secret support of Nixon in 1960 ended that. It was Kennedy friend Richard Cardinal Cushing who was a Kennedy friend and who led the 1960 inauguration invocation-an event Spellman was not invited to.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Stewart

    You don't read this book for the prose, or the humility. When it's good -- and long stretches of it are quite compelling after a slow start -- it tells stories about abuse of power and how they were unearthed. Sy Hersh broke a LOT of huge stories in his career, starting with My Lai, an appalling episode that required great resourcefulness and pure grit to unearth. It's the highlight of the book. And he's still keeping some secrets about how he did all of it. One of the most interesting things h You don't read this book for the prose, or the humility. When it's good -- and long stretches of it are quite compelling after a slow start -- it tells stories about abuse of power and how they were unearthed. Sy Hersh broke a LOT of huge stories in his career, starting with My Lai, an appalling episode that required great resourcefulness and pure grit to unearth. It's the highlight of the book. And he's still keeping some secrets about how he did all of it. One of the most interesting things he writes is that he earned the respect of many of his sources in the intelligence world by continuing to keep their secrets if they could give him good reasons to do so (or reasons that he thought were good). That was sobering. What hasn't he told us? In any event, an interesting book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jun Chen

    I haven't finished the book. I couldn't bring myself to finish this supposedly amazing, thought-provoking, worldview-changing memoir. Perhaps I was too unfamiliar with the historical context, perhaps I didn't understand the significance of the names that Hersh dropped. Those are meaningful accounts, I am sure, but I wasn't drawn to his narrative of how he had changed the factual reporting during the Vietnam war, and how he was working for McCarthy. I couldn't see how relevant those experiences a I haven't finished the book. I couldn't bring myself to finish this supposedly amazing, thought-provoking, worldview-changing memoir. Perhaps I was too unfamiliar with the historical context, perhaps I didn't understand the significance of the names that Hersh dropped. Those are meaningful accounts, I am sure, but I wasn't drawn to his narrative of how he had changed the factual reporting during the Vietnam war, and how he was working for McCarthy. I couldn't see how relevant those experiences are for me - Herse and I can't be more different, at the end of the day, in terms of family, religion, race, gender, age, etc. - There are certainly books that transcended the differences, but this book isn't one. Perhaps I will pick it up again someday.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    US reporter of near legendary repute details his career in revealing truth to power in stories big and small. But mostly big. Of note is the story of his chasing down William Calley which gives one a good idea of the work and persistence needed in investigative reporting. Not for the faint of heart. Very interesting also is the ingrained conservatism of most news organizations and the top people in them which Hersh has run up against time and again, perhaps most surprisingly in 1970 when as a Pu US reporter of near legendary repute details his career in revealing truth to power in stories big and small. But mostly big. Of note is the story of his chasing down William Calley which gives one a good idea of the work and persistence needed in investigative reporting. Not for the faint of heart. Very interesting also is the ingrained conservatism of most news organizations and the top people in them which Hersh has run up against time and again, perhaps most surprisingly in 1970 when as a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter neither the Washington Post nor the NY Times was interested in hiring him. Hersh's record of history proving him correct is stellar which makes his recent against the grain reporting on Bashir al Assad all the more provocative. Excellent read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Csparrenberger

    This book was up and down for me depending on the subject being discussed. Reading between the lines, it seems the author spent a lot of time being unemployed. I lost count of how many different employers he had over his career if you read this book, read pages 202-203 first. I had never seen this topic discussed and was shocked.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Somewhere between annoying and disappointing. Maybe it's because I expected so much better from someone who, as the titular successor to the remarkable Izzy Stone, broke so many seminal stories over a truly remarkable career. Far too much time spent on grudge-settling, blatant self-aggrandizement and lame "humor" parading as false modesty. While this tome shouldn't detract from the incredible work Sy did over the decades, you're better off reading the actual reporting than this rambling meander.

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