In a trenchant discussion of journalism, biography and ethics, Newsday senior editor Wick (Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood and the Cotton Club Murder, 1990, etc.) examines the life of William Shirer (1904–1993), American war correspondent and author of the landmark book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960).
The author is very much attuned to the conflicts and difficulties of a journalist like Shirer working in a police state. Wick asks what more he might have done, and discusses Shirer’s concerns about getting stories published in New York, where he thought “no one…paid much attention.” Shirer’s knowledge only part of the story. He endured both the German government’s lies and the corporate concerns of CBS, and he had to act on this partial and contradictory knowledge, not the fuller truth now available. He also had to protect his sources. His transmissions were monitored by Nazi spies in the United States who reported back with recommendations for action against him. It was a major undertaking for him to get his diaries and personal papers out of Hitler’s Germany when he left in 1940. The papers eventually provided the necessary documentation for the influential books he later wrote about Hitler's rise to power and the Third Reich. As one of the first broadcast journalists, Shirer was breaking new ground with his nightly transmissions. Unfortunately, we will never know his full story because he protected his sources and burned sensitive papers before he left.
A gripping account of a courageous journalist's efforts to alert the world to Hitler's plan, and an engaging discussion of the relationship between journalism and personal integrity, which is as relevant today as it was then.