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The Journalist and the Murderer Paperback – 15 Jan 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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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 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,965,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"It is not with regard to jounralism but with regard to the making of works of art that Malcom's important book gathers its inspiration, its breathtaking rhetorical velocity, and its great truth." David Rieff, Los Angeles Times" --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Inside Flap

In two previous books, Janet Malcolm explored the hidden sides of, respectively, institutional psychoanalysis and Freudian biography. In this book, she examines the psychopathology of journalism. Using a strange and unprecedented lawsuit as her larger-than-life example -- the lawsuit of Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, against Joe McGinniss, the author of Fatal Vision, a book about the crime -- she delves into the always uneasy, sometimes tragic relationship that exists between journalist and subject. In Malcolm's view, neither journalist nor subject can avoid the moral impasse that is built into the journalistic situation. When the text first appeared, as a two-part article in The New Yorker, its thesis seemed so radical and its irony so pitiless that journalists across the country reacted as if stung.
Her book is a work of journalism as well as an essay on journalism: it at once exemplifies and dissects its subject. In her interviews with the leading and subsidiary characters in the MacDonald-McGinniss case -- the principals, their lawyers, the members of the jury, and the various persons who testified as expert witnesses at the trial -- Malcolm is always aware of herself as a player in a game that, as she points out, she cannot lose. The journalist-subject encounter has always troubled journalists, but never before has it been looked at so unflinchingly and so ruefully. Hovering over the narrative -- and always on the edge of the reader's consciousness -- is the MacDonald murder case itself, which imparts to the book an atmosphere of anxiety and uncanniness. The Journalist and the Murderer derives from and reflects many of the dominant intellectual concerns of our time, and it will have a particular appeal for those who cherish the odd, the off-center, and the unsolved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Story:
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Kindle Edition
One could admire Janet Malcolm more if she a) didn't eternally project herself as more knowing, more intelligent, more able to penetrate to the very heart of the matter, than anybody else, most especially her (hapless) subjects, and b) weren't always giving heavy-handed Freudian explanations for all the phenomena and behaviours she describes. There is something both intolerably smug about her tone -- a sort of triumphant 'aha!' being the background note -- and infuriatingly reductive about her 'insights'.
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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Brilliant analysis of an incredibly strange, morally complicated relationship between a journalist and a convicted murderer. The real thrill of it is that Janet Malcolm, despite her careful tone, really dislikes Joe McGinniss.
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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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