Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review. I’m back after a holiday sojourn to visit Margot’s family in Pennsylvania. It was a nice, low-key trip. I caught up on a bunch of reading, much of it strictly for fun. Oddly enough, one book I read, for no real work-related reason, is one of the best journalism books I’ve read in years: Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.
Farrow, along with New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, won a Pulitzer for his work investigating sex abuse allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein—the blockbuster journalism that kick-started the Me Too movement. The book follows Farrow’s progress investigating the story—and also follows the private investigators hired by Weinstein’s lawyers to keep tabs on him and, if necessary, impede his progress. It reads like a political thriller, and it’s hard not to expect that it’ll be made into a movie within the decade. (That might be ironic since it’s partially an exposé of a movie producer, but, as the great Arthur Lee once sang, “The news today will be the movies for tomorrow.”)
It’s a wild story—a real conspiracy that touches everyone from Quentin Tarantino and Rose McGowan to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Farrow was an employee of NBC when started doing the work, but the network was hesitant to go after the extremely well-connected Weinstein, especially since they had a similarly prestigious predator in their own organization, Matt Lauer. Farrow eventually found a home for the story at the New Yorker.
The book’s title refers to the abhorrent practice of buying the rights to stories, having the pertinent people sign non-disclosure agreements, and then intentionally burying the stories in a secret vault (literally as well as figuratively). This practice, hiding damaging stories so they never see the light of day, is the exact opposite of journalism. The National Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc., had a habit of doing it for stories about Weinstein. They also did it for stories about Trump.