Journalism and the question of ethics in its professional pursuit
Janet Malcolm (1934-2021) wrote widely but will be remembered most for her journalism classic
In 1970, a US army physician called Jeffrey MacDonald was accused of murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters. The writer Joe McGinniss interviewed him, and they struck a rapport. MacDonald asked McGinniss if he would write a book about his case and share the revenue so that he could pay for his legal defence. McGinnis agreed, but MacDonald was convicted. McGinniss wrote letters to him, saying he thought he had not received a fair trial. However, McGinniss was convinced early that MacDonald was guilty, but he maintained the illusion of friendship to earn MacDonald’s trust. The book he wrote, Fatal Vision (1984), shattered MacDonald, who sued McGinnis, and they settled out of court.