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The Journalist and the Murderer [Paperback]

Janet Malcolm , Ian Jack
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Jan 2004
"Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." Janet Malcolm begins this book with the words above, which have become famous (and infamous), and then sets out to demonstrate the charge with the story of the lawsuit between Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, and Joe McGinniss, the author of a book about the crime.

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The Journalist and the Murderer + Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession + The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath And Ted Hughes
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Product details

  • Paperback: 163 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (15 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862076375
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862076372
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,046,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Janet Malcolm's books include Reading Chekhov, In the Freud Archives, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession. Born in Prague, she grew up in New York, where she now lives.

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Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
In the 1983 convicted killer Jeffrey MacDonald sued author Joe McGinniss for writing a biased account of his case ('Mcginniss Joe : Fatal Vision (Signet)'). He nearly won.
Janet Malcolm takes a psychoanalytical into what caused half the jury to vote in favour of a man who had just been convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and two children.

Despite pulling out all the psychoanalytical stops for her investigation into the case, this book is exceptionally accessible to all.
Starting off her analysis of the whole debacle, Malcolm begins by creating analogies between those who open up to journalists and the subjects of Stanley Milgram's famous obedience experiments. It seems like a huge leap but Malcolm strongly believes that when we are in the presence of writers / journo's, we all tend to loose a our self control and become subservient to those throwing the questions - just as Milgram's subjects gave up their self control and followed the order to torture. In a nutshell Malcolm believes subjects are putty in the hands of their manipulative writers, therefore the journalist has a responsibility to deliver the truth without bias.

And this is the springboard for Malcolm's own journey.

Malcolm's investigation leads her on an expedition to find the bias in 'Fatal Vision' and prove her point (that Joe McGinniss was manipulative and deceitful in his account), but in doing so she is be becoming more and more partizan. It seems at one point 'the jokes on her'.
In the end Malcolm acknowledges her own predilection, but uses this only to prove her initial point that the writer a has all that power - which inevitably leads to corruption.

So yes writers are naughty with the facts, but they really can't help it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strongly recommended 1 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a deeply provocative work - in the best sense of the term - and one which raises some basic questions about the trade of journalism. It is also extremely well-written.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cleave the tautology of 'journalistic ethics' 21 Sep 2005
In this beguiling work, Malcolm ascribes to the journalist-subject relationship the phenomenum which Heisenberg, working in atomic physics, characterised as the uncertainty principle: namely that through the process of observation, the observer alters the outcome.
To explore the question, she studies a curious legal case in which a triple-murderer successfully sued an author who reported his case: the jury ruled that the writer had wilfully and maliciously misled the convict to such a degree that he was liable, to the tune of $350k, for his subject's wounded feelings.
Malcolm, in forensic detail, attempts to determine the point at which journalistic licence becomes outright lying; and the point at which humouring a subject in order to extract a story becomes manipulation.
Although at times dry, and at others veering towards being sanctimonious, any working journalist who is not too proud or too self-deluded will at least feel uncomfortable pangs - even if they are not finally persuaded that their trade is 'morally indefensible.'
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well packaged, timely delivery 19 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm quite happy with the punctuality of my delivery!

I was recommended this book in one of my journalism classes and it's a great read so far! Definitely makes you think about the media, crime and the fascination with it all! Must-read!
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