Analysis of Janet Malcom´s The Journalist and the Murderer

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Self-motivation and determination are two of the main ideals of being journalist. If a journalist does not have the desire to find and report a story, he has no career. A journalist depends on finding the facts, getting to the bottom of the story and reporting to the public, whether it’s positive or negative. Janet Malcom states in the book The Journalist and the Murderer, “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.” (Malcolm, 3) Her starting words speak volumes about “the Journalist and the Murderer” and the lessons that can be learned.
Young journalists can learn a lot from Malcom’s book because it presents some troubling issues. A main issue would be the author-subject relationship and where the writer-friend line exist. The Journalist and the Murderer tells the story of Joe McGinnis and Jeffrey MacDonald. McGinnis is an author looking to write a book on MacDonald who is convicted of murdering his wife and two daughters. MacDonald wanted his voice to be heard, and he wanted to get his side of the story out to the world.
McGinniss follows the trial with MacDonald and his group of lawyers, going to all the hearings, listening to his side of the story and even staying in MacDonald’s condominium – which McGinniss took advantage of in the name of his book. McGinniss, from the beginning, never gave MacDonald a second chance about who was going to write Macdonald’s story. McGinniss gave the impression that he was there as both an author and a friend, someone he could trust. In the end, McGinniss wrote Fatal Vision in which MacDonald was accused of being a publicity-seeking womanizer who was also a latent homosexual. (Malcolm, 30)
After a ...

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... about how much journalism can affect a person’s reputation. After the publication of Fatal Vision, MacDonald received a letter in jail from a reader. The reader was on vacation in Hawaii with his wife when he read the book and decided to write to the star of the novel. J.H, the Hawaiian vacationer, basically told MacDonald that he should rot in jail and not receive parole in 1991. (Malcolm, 145) Fatal Vision introduced the story of MacDonald to the world and a much larger audience than the case would have had if there was no book. With the publication of Fatal Vision, so many people did not get to hear MacDonald’s true voice, whether he was lying or telling the truth, the world would only see McGinniss’ viewpoint of the murder and trial, that is until Janet Malcolm wrote The Journalist and the Murderer.

Works Cited

The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm

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