ARE ALL JOURNALISTS CON MEN? Walter Kirn was a writer who had befriended Clark Rockefeller and spent considerable time with him over a ten year period before Rockefeller’s imposture was exposed. Nathaniel Rich thinks that Kirn had been suspicious of Rockefeller and says that what Walter Kirn did is characteristic of what writers do: “What journalist doesn’t flatter his subjects in order to encourage them to reveal their private thoughts”?” Rich alludes to the first sentence of Janet Malcolm’s 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.” This wikipedia entry summarizes Malcolm’s book, which is about a true crime book by Joe McGinniss (the journalist). McGinniss spent time with a man who was convicted of murder. The entry says that Malcom argued that “McGinniss’ moral sin, his ‘indefensible’ act in her view, was to pretend to a belief in [the accused murderer’s innocence, long after he’d become convinced of the man’s guilt.”
The wikipedia entry quotes an article in the Columbia Journalism Review which says that Malcolm’s thesis about the moral indefensibility of journalism “became received wisdom”.