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 summer of building this friendship, and MacDonald was sent to prison, the two wrote letters to each other in which McGinniss continued to keep their friendship relevant. McGinniss shared his feelings on Macdonald’s first of many letters written to him. “I felt genuine sorrow. He wrote “All I want to know is that you’re still my friend.’” (Malcolm, 33) McGinniss was given a choice in his response letter. He had two options. He could tell MacDonald yes, they were still friends or tell him no and risk losing MacDonald as his subject. I think most journalists would have responded with “yes, I am still your friend.”
McGinnis telling Macdonald that they were still friends and acting the part was wrong, however Malcolm justifies McGinnis’ deceit. She writes that turning a real-life person into a book character is not an easy transformation. It is a transformation that ultimately requires attachment towards the subject from the author. (Malcolm, 96) This connection allows the author to not only see the subject in a better light, but it provides them with the inspiration...