The experience of reading Hersh’s memoir is like visiting a lost world ... It’s all reporting—dense and detailed reporting on reporting. That iterative and pointillist style of telling a story does fall into a genre: noir...To put it in a callow way, this stuff is cool. It’s also very masculine. Almost every person in Hersh’s memoir is a man—a sign of the time and the industry ... Dwight Garner of The New York Times faults Reporter for lacking detail and color about human beings who are not Sy Hersh. It’s true: This is not a psychological or social portrait of any of the major players who ran newspapers during the decades covered in the book. And the Nixon anecdote reveals that what is left out of Reporter, namely women and a political consciousness that includes women, speaks a little loudly for comfort. Hersh is not a political theorist, nor a literary memoirist, nor a paragon of journalistic behavior. He’s a reporter. Looking back over his career from today’s vantage point, he is something of an incomplete hero. It’s easy to mourn the loss of this industry’s old form, and to lionize Hersh as its most ferocious remnant. The past is a foreign country, and, for better or worse, they did journalism differently there.
The qualities that make Seymour Hersh a first-rate reporter—his hustle, his wonkiness, his nighthawk drive to unearth a radioactive fact and then top that fact—make him a second-rate memoirist. Like a greyhound or a kamikaze pilot or an insurance man peddling a policy, he’s not built for reflection ... If Hersh rarely seems quite human, neither does Reporter. He piles on the policy and deadline details while leaving people and their beating hearts mostly behind ... To be fair, Hersh does get his share of stories told. Battles with his journalistic ally and nemesis Abe Rosenthal, a legendary editor of The Times, are delightfully recounted ... So many of journalism’s old war dogs have left or are leaving us, and there’s a sense that we won’t get many more memoirs like this one. If this book’s pilot light isn’t fully lit, it still puts a big career across.
Hersh's career is a tribute to the pursuit of the 'unpredictable result.' We used to value reporters who were willing to alienate editors and readers alike, if that's the way the truth cut. Now, as often as not, we just change the channel. This has been bad for both reporters and readers, who are losing the will to seek out and face the unpredictable truth. When it comes time for the next generation of journalists to re-discover what this job is supposed to be about, they can at least read Reporter. It's all in here.
At its best, Reporter is a lively self-portrait of a maverick and troublemaker. But it is scrubbed and sanitized. [Hersh] appears in a half-light; the book does not illuminate the darkest corners of his long career ... Hersh is less than truthful ... For a full view of Hersh and an authoritative sense of his career, which embodies the expansive possibilities of muckraking as well as its many perils, one must look elsewhere ... A merit of Reporter is the way in which it divulges Hersh’s trade secrets ... What is Hersh’s underlying philosophy and motivation? On this question, Reporter, which is written in chatty, hurried, self-satisfied prose, is not very introspective or revealing ... The vitality in Reporter fades as the Reagan years approach ... one wishes that Hersh had spent more time adding texture, nuance, and humility to Reporter. If he had scrutinized his own life with the same tenacity he has directed elsewhere, he might have given us one of the great journalistic memoirs.
Just as there are few books about the inner workings of sausage factories, good books about the making of journalism are few and far between, and Hersh’s memoir is a welcome addition. Still, some of the stories read as if the author, who recently turned 81, were in a hurry to catch a plane. Most disappointing is his perfunctory treatment of the damage that the digital revolution has done to the profits that once financed his kind of painstaking, labor-intensive reporting.
His memoir is—with some niggling reservations—a master class in the craft of reporting ... Will most future newsrooms ever again be in a position to allow their reporters the resources and time to do the kind of work that Hersh, in his prime, so magnificently produced? His memoir is a compelling argument for why they should.
Reporter is a miracle. From the first lines of chapter one, Hersh adopts a different voice, one of modulation, nuance, warmth, and—dare I say it—soul. The result will likely surprise—alarm, even—readers of his previous books ... Here he reveals himself a natural storyteller. In looking backward, Hersh seems to write with a different hand: The stories brim with humor, wit, poignancy, pointillist portraits of brilliant color—above all, his own voice ... As Hersh unburdens himself, it is hard to fathom who will be more infuriated: his critics or loyalists? ... There are, too, surprises. He does not spare those who tried 'to shut me up,' chiefly Kissinger, Cheney, Gulf and Western. But there is no interest in score-settling. Hersh is generous to colleagues and editors ... And yet a sad undertow runs throughout the book, surfacing only at its close. What Hersh has written is not a memoir, but an elegy.
If Hersh were a superhero, this would be his origin story ... Reporter provides detailed explications of how Hersh has used these lessons, making it one of the most compelling and significant books ever written about American journalism. Almost every page will tell you something you’ve never heard before about life on earth.
[Hersh] fleshes out details, adds some compelling anecdotes, and offers a peek at how he was able to scoop his peers ... His memoir also raises interesting issues of journalism ethics, although I doubt this was his intent ... The most enjoyable aspect of Hersh’s memoir is his descriptions of how he went about reporting his biggest stories, particularly how he identified and developed potential sources and then persuaded them to talk so openly with him ... for anyone eager to read some fresh Hersh writing, try his memoir and you might find, you get what you need.
In Reporter, even the footnotes are priceless ... In thrilling detail, Hersh recalls how he began to confirm sketchy details about My Lai ... He tends to bog down a bit in a dizzying array of names, acronyms and House subcommittees that were frankly less important than his mega-scoops ... Reporter has more juicy background, action-packed storytelling and name-drops per page than any book in recent memory, all told in straightforward style.
In this candid and revelatory memoir, Hersh chronicles his evolution as a reporter in both style and substance ... Hersh remains at the vanguard of tenacious and purposeful writers who speak truth to power, and surely he’s inspiring the best at work now. Journalism junkies will devour this insider’s account of a distinguished career.
...it seems a bit much when, determined not to leave anything out, he resorts literally to running lists of the other, smaller scandals on which he worked in between. Detail swamps his narrative, like creeper clambering over an ancient Mayan ruin, and for the reader, hacking through it is completely exhausting ... Hersh might be a monomaniac, but he deserves all the respect in the world for the work he did then [on My Lai].
For me, it was worth the cover price to read his 19-page account of his efforts to find the man blamed for the massacre, Lt. William Calley, and to break the story. It’s a tale of shoe leather, chutzpah and pure luck, and I humbly suggest that every reporter — and everyone who wants to understand what a journalist can and should be — read Chapter 9 of Reporter ... You won’t find much insight here. Mr. Hersh offers dish on government officials, editors and book agents, but very little on his own interior life. Maybe it’s unfair to ask a just-the-facts guy to get personal. Surely, though, Mr. Hersh could’ve given us more of his thoughts on 50 years of changes in his industry ... Let’s hope Reporter: A Memoir is just a placeholder. Mr. Hersh digs deepest, it seems, when he’s on tougher terrain.
The author shares insightful (and sometimes searing) anecdotes about fellow journalists, presidents and their cronies, military generals, and numerous celebrities. Readers interested in a primer about investigative techniques will find Hersh a generous teacher ... Hersh discloses little about his wife and children, but otherwise, candor is the driving force in this outstanding book. Rarely has a journalist’s memoir come together so well, with admirable measures of self-deprecation, transparent pride, readable prose style, and honesty.
There’s gripping journalistic intrigue aplenty as he susses out sources and documents, fences with officials, and fields death threats ... Hersh himself is brash and direct, but never cynical, and his memoir is as riveting as the great journalistic exposés he produced.