A deep biographical treatment of the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who is the scourge of those in power.
Seymour Hersh, now in his late 70s, began his unlikely journalism career in 1959 after earning a history degree from the University of Chicago and dropping out of law school. With limited cooperation from his subject, journalist and former journalism professor Miraldi (The Pen Is Mightier: The Muckraking Life of Charles Edward Russell, 2003, etc.) documents his remarkable, controversial decades as an investigative reporter. Hersh comes across as a good guy of limited patience when approached by fellow journalists and as a bulldog with sharp teeth when in his reporter mode. Miraldi clearly demonstrates how the journalistically capable but mostly unknown Hersh rocketed to fame in 1969 with his exploration of the My Lai massacre. Despite the enormity of that atrocity and countless similar atrocities by American troops, no other journalist was digging into the topic, and Hersh had difficulty finding a news outlet to publish his findings. Eventually, his output of books, investigations for the New York Times, projects for the New Yorker and speeches to a wide variety of audiences made Hersh famous, albeit alternately loved or hated. Miraldi explains why there is rarely a middle ground of opinion regarding Hersh the person and Hersh the muckraker. Although Hersh is extremely closed about his family life, Miraldi manages to reveal pertinent information, allowing his subject to emerge from the pages as fully human rather than a one-dimensional scandal hound. In the competition between Hersh and Bob Woodward—a competition that includes strong feelings from the supporters and detractors of each—Hersh can be considered to be superior based on Miraldi's portrait, despite the warts the biographer delineates. Miraldi closes the Hersh saga in 2004, after Hersh's exposé of Abu Ghraib, yet another blot on America's reputation in the world.
An important, long-overdue biography.