Jewish Journal


September 25, 2007

My interview with Sy Hersh goes global


So my interview with Seymour Hersh brought 3,000 visitors to JewishJournal.com yesterday. LAObserved, Romenesko, Huffington Post and War and Piece all linked to it. My Web editor just called to say he heard it quoted on Nick Madigan’s “Minding the Media” program on KCRW this afternoon. Here’s a link to the transcript:

What will the journalism of the future look like? Will it continue to obsess over absurd, half-in-the-bag teenybopper celebrities, and insist on making up silly headlines to describe criminal sports figures and tin-pot dictators?

With fewer and fewer jobs available in traditional journalism, will aspiring reporters and editors dedicate their energy to the fluid, often irresponsible blogosphere, where opinion is king?


In an interview with the Jewish Journal, another veteran journalist, Seymour M. Hersh, who is 70 and writes for the New Yorker, said he has embraced the new order.

  “There is an enormous change taking place in this country in journalism, and it is online,” said Hersh, who received a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for uncovering the My Lai massacre.

  “I hate to tell this to The New York Times or The Washington Post,” he said. “We are going to have online newspapers, and they are going to be spectacular. And they are really going to cut into daily journalism.”

“We have a vibrant, new way of communicating in America,” Hersh said. “We haven’t come to terms with it. I don’t think much of a lot of the stuff that is out there. But there are a lot of people doing very, very good stuff.”


When I was learning the difference between a nut graph and a set-up and why “lede” is spelled so oddly, Hersh was a journalistic hero of mine. (I think I always related because of the glasses he wore.) What I found most interesting from our conversation was this bit of honesty:

JJ: You turned 70 this year. Why keep working so hard?

SH: I don’t work that hard. I write four or five pieces a year. Secondly, what do you want me to do? Play professional golf? I can’t do that. You do what you can do. And I’m in a funny spot because I have an ability to communicate with people I have known for a number of years. They trust me, and I trust them, so I keep on doing these little marginal stories.

JJ: That’s all they are? Marginal?

SH: With these stories, if they slow down or make people take a deep breath before they bomb Iran, that is a plus. But they are not going to stop anybody. This is a government that is unreachable by us, and that is very depressing. In terms of adding to the public debate, the stories are important. But not in terms of changing policy. I have no delusions about that.

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