Author and journalism Professor Robert Miraldi told an audience at the College at New Paltz that journalism today remains not only a key part of American democracy, but also a place where committed individuals can make a difference in society.
Miraldi used the example of Seymour Hersh, the famous investigative reporter whose biography — called Scoop Artist – he recently published. “Make no mistake about it,” Miraldi said, “times have changed. But we still have the chance as journalists — whether as bloggers or tweeters or simply writing long muckraking stories about the bad things that still occur — to make things better.”
Miraldi cited how Hersh’s 1975 stories about the CIA spying on American citizens led to a complete revamping of the agency’s regulations and spurred three major investigations. He also said Hersh’s reporting while at the New York Times led to numerous investigations and policy changes.
Moreover, Miraldi cited Hersh’s 1968 book that led to the halting of the stockpiling and production of biological weapons. “This was a stunning early victory for Hersh,” he said.
Miraldi traced the long influence of investigative reporting (once called muckraking journalism) on American politics and culture. Hearkening back to the groundbreaking work of turn-of-the-20th century journalists such as Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair, Miraldi emphasized how reporters have long played the role of the Fourth Branch of government.
“How can one not be inspired by their work,” Miraldi asked the audience. Miraldi wove stories of his own career as an investigative reporter with that of Hersh, who began in journalism in Chicago in 1959 and then worked for the Associated Press, the Times, The New Yorker and wrote nine books.
Hersh, Miraldi pointed out, has won more awards than any other American journalist and is generally considered to be the best investigative reporter in America. And, yet, he added, he is despised by the political right in America and beloved by the left. Miraldi pointed out that Hersh is often criticized for having a liberal bias. “But that is so unfair,” he said. Hersh hates it when people ask for his opinion, he added.
“Hersh wants people to look at his exposés, his reporting, his facts, what he uncovers,” Miraldi said. And that is what has made him famous over the years, beginning in 1969 when he won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for his exposé of a massacre of more than 500 civilians in the village of My Lai in Vietnam.
Miraldi told many of the students in his audience that journalists need patience, that making changes and bringing about reform takes time. He quoted the journalist I.F. Stone, one of Hersh’s heroes, who once said, “reform is like pissing on a rock. It takes a long time for the rock to wear down – but it does wear down.”
Miraldi’s 415-page book on Hersh came out in October from Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press. It is the first biography of the 76-year-old Hersh who is currently working on a book on the covert activities of both the Bush-Cheney and Obama Administrations.
Journalism professor Robert Miraldi will discuss his new biography of America’s premier investigative reporter at a book signing and reception on Nov. 5 at the Honors Center in College Hall on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
The event begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Dr. Miraldi’s book on Seymour Hersh, now 76 years old, traces the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s 50 years of journalistic crusades, exposés and confrontations with six Presidents on his way to reshaping American national security policy and investigative reporting itself.
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 uncovered domestic spying, military crimes and government assassinations 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 415-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 working on a book about former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Bush Administration’s covert activities.
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.”
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. “He has become the man the political left loves and the right loves to hate,” Miraldi pointed out.
In the years since, as he moved from one journalistic triumph to another, he has constantly been in the eye of the storm. Hersh worked for four years as a reporter for the Associated Press in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Then he was a famous investigative reporter for the New York Times for seven years. After leaving the Times he wrote best-selling books and has been a controversial magazine writer for the New Yorker for a decade.
Miraldi is an award-winning author, journalist and columnist who has taught at the College at New Paltz since 1982. 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.
The event is sponsored by the college’s Honors Program and the Department of Communication and Media. For more information contact Dr. Patricia Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.