New book traces life of controversial journalist

August 30, 2013 – For immediate release

A new book on Seymour Hersh, regarded by many as America’s greatest investigative reporter, traces the reporter’s 50 turbulent years of journalistic crusades, exposés and confrontations with six Presidents on his way to creating huge controversies and winning more awards than any other American journalist.

From his exposé of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1969 to the revelation of prison torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq in 2004, Hersh has revealed scandal after scandal which author Robert Miraldi chronicles for the first time in Seymour Hersh: Scoop Artist.

Miraldi traces Hersh’s rise from the streets of Chicago in the 1950s to the newsrooms of the most powerful newspapers and magazines in the United States.

The 445-page book has just been published by Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press. It is a full-scale biography of Hersh, who is now 76 years old and is currently working on a book about former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Bush Administration’s covert activities.

Miraldi predicts Hersh’s next book — like many of the nine books he has previously written – will cause controversy and make headlines throughout the world. “No one stirs the pot like Sy Hersh,” Miraldi said.  “He is the man the political left loves and the right loves to hate.”

Miraldi, a professor of journalism who has written and edited three books on investigative reporting, says that Hersh’s work bear remarkable resemblance to contemporary events.  In 1975, Hersh revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency was conducting what he called “massive” spying on American citizens, a direct violation of its charter.  The story led to changes in law and policy and forced the CIA to stop assassinations. As Miraldi writes, the reaction to Hersh’s CIA exposé was “profound, dramatic, a truly major event.”

Recent revelations that the National Security Agency has been spying on American citizens conjures a similar police-state that Hersh revealed many years ago, Miraldi points out.

Sydney Schanberg, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, calls Miraldi’s book “important….a graphic, fact-filled biography of America’s most unstoppable investigative journalist.” Miraldi “has dug out details you’ve never heard before,” Schanberg adds.

Among the controversial episodes and events that Miraldi writes about include how:

  • The New York Times missed a tip about the Watergate break-in in 1972 and then had to turn to Hersh to catch up to Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Hersh not only caught up but outpaced the duo and gave them key leads to follow the scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign.
  • Hersh’s longtime rivalry with Woodward led the duo to fiercely battle with each other for “scoops,” and how they politely but intensely competed over the years for the title of America’s greatest investigative reporter.
  • Hersh’s 1968 book and magazine work on chemical and biological weapons led the Nixon Administration to ban the stockpiling and production of biological weapons, a stunning early and overlooked Hersh triumph.
  • He helped Eugene McCarthy pull off a remarkable upset of President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic primary but then fought with the candidate and left the campaign, a scenario that was repeated by the abrasive Hersh in many of his jobs.
  • He uncovered the illegal bombing of Cambodia that Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger oversaw, a stealth campaign that came close to getting Nixon impeached.
  • Leaving the world of public and foreign policy, Hersh went after a Chicago lawyer known as “The Godfather,” bringing veiled threats against his safety and a piercing look at organized crime.
  • His books on Henry Kissinger and John F. Kennedy caused national headlines and brought both furious attacks on Hersh and awards for his investigative reporting and exposure of the dark deeds of two Presidential administrations.
  • Hersh’s relentless reporting has seen him go after a variety of public officials, from his exposure of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega (which led the U.S. to invade Panama to capture him) to his allegations that Gen. Barry McCaffrey ordered attacks on helpless Iraqis after a ceasefire had been signed (heatedly denied by McCaffrey), a story that led to national headlines.

Scoop Artist begins with the dramatic tale of how Hersh tracked down the story of the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the village of My Lai in Vietnam in 1968. While My Lai became the symbol of a bad war, Miraldi documents how Hersh became the journalist the political right loved to hate and the father of a conservative movement against a “liberal” media. In the years since, as he moved from one journalistic triumph to another, he has constantly been in the eye of the storm.

Hersh’s work– a snapshot of some of the biggest stories in America through its most turbulent decades – has consistently put the reporter in the headlines because of his use of anonymous sources and the controversial nature of his countless exposés. The book shows how his work had drawn the fury of targets from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush to Barack Obama.

This unauthorized biography is also a lively look at his life as well as a critical assessment of his stunning achievements. “Hersh is irascible and abrasive but also an iconoclastic and heroic character,” observes Miraldi.  “He is a truly great American character, a top tier figure.”

The book includes a bibliography of Hersh’s most important work and a time line that traces his path from his early days in the “Front Page” milieu of Chicago journalism through his seven years at the New York Times to the alternative and piercing view of the Mideast Wars he has given readers of the New Yorker magazine for more than a decade.

Miraldi is an award-winning author, journalist and columnist who has taught at the State University of New York for 30 years. He is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on investigative reporting. In 2004 his biography, The Pen Is Mightier: The Muckraking Life of Charles Edward Russell, was named the best book in the country in journalism and mass communication.

Miraldi is the author of two books and editor of three others. In 1992 he was a Fulbright Scholar, lecturing in the Netherlands. His writing on the First Amendment has won national awards.  A Ph.D. in American Studies, he teaches classes on media law, press history, and news reporting. He began his career as an investigative reporter in New York City.


John Darnton on Scoop Artist

“At last! – someone’s cast a magnifying glass on the Sherlock Holmes of investigative reporters! Miraldi’s close-up examination of Seymour Hersh revels in the triumphs, controversies and passions that have accompanied that reporter and unhinged Washington for fifty years. But more: he sheds light on what motivates a powerful bull-in-a-china-shop investigator and on how he goes about finding all that exquisite porcelain to smash.”
– John Darnton, best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter.

Sydney Schanberg on Scoop Artist

“This book is important….a graphic, fact-filled biography of Sy Hersh, probably America’s most unstoppable investigative journalist.  You may remember him as the man who discovered the My Lai massacre but Sy has spent a half-century bull-dozing our government and others when they try to deceive the public and stain democracy.   Miraldi has dug out details you’ve never heard before. The clan of investigative reporters has been shrinking in the digital age. That’s another reason this biography is important. The Hersh book is impressive.”
– Sydney Schanberg, Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times.