Excellent Read: “What’s Next For New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer?”

Since we’re talking about her anyways… Great piece from Molly Langmuir, at Elle:

On the page, Mayer, a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1995, is authoritative and direct, and as a journalist, she is relentless. She’s waited outside the house of a CIA operative as day turned to dusk, hoping to question him about the death of a man he was interrogating. She uncovered a vast government-run domestic surveillance program in 2011, two years before Edward Snowden became a whistle-blower. “She’s the best investigative reporter in America,” says Daniel Zalewski, her New Yorker editor. “Not the best female investigative reporter.” In person, Mayer, who is petite with brown shoulder-length hair she usually wears down, the tips slightly flipped up, displays a confidence that has no visible fault lines. She also has a tendency toward self-deprecation. And while her mind often seems to whir with seamless elegance, this appears to fuel in her not impatience but curiosity. She has this way of holding her head—neck slightly forward, face tilted down, eyes up, eyebrows raised—that is the exact posture of receptive interest. At lunch, she maintains this stance as—in between answering my questions—she asks if my parents are still married, what I was like as a teenager, and whether my family is wealthy.

As for her next article, all she’ll tell me on the record is, “I’m focusing broadly on stories about abuses of power, threats to democracy, and corruption,” which she surely knows covers pretty much everything she’s written over the last two decades. “She thinks very carefully about what piece she’s going to pursue,” Zalewski says. “It’s like watching a rock-climber stare at a cliff, considering potential routes. And then she climbs.”…

… “She has Washington wired,” Farrow tells me. “It’s the kind of infallible crystal ball that only comes from years of putting in the work.” Over the course of her career, Mayer has written four best-selling books, and one quality they share, according to Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic of the New York Times and a longtime friend, is that they “demonstrate uncanny historical prescience.”

Mayer’s first book, Landslide, cowritten with Doyle McManus in 1988 about the Iran-Contra scandal, revealed that President Ronald Reagan—later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—was already displaying signs of mental unsteadiness in office, to the point that aides considered invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. Even in 2015, the scoop remained juicy enough that Bill O’Reilly reprised it in his book Killing Reagan, without direct attribution. (Mayer considered legal recourse, then thought better of it. “I have so many enemies,” she says. “Bill O’Reilly is maybe one more than I need.”) In 1994, she and her friend Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, cowrote Strange Justice, about Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. In 2008, Mayer published The Dark Side, about the CIA’s war on terror. Most recently, her 2016 book Dark Money and the New Yorker features that preceded it not only helped turn billionaires Charles and David Koch into household names but spelled out money’s influence on conservative politics so thoroughly that the left began using it as a how-to guide. “It had a big effect on progressive donors trying to create similar networks,” says Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a Columbia University political scientist…

“It’s a great time to be a reporter,” Mayer says, before clarifying, “it’s an important time to be a reporter.” She also describes her job as like being an unwilling combatant in a war. In an essay Mayer and Abramson cowrote last fall for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, they closed with a question: “Is the truth loud enough?” But is anything loud enough to be heard over an inferno?

This could be discouraging, but during the time I spend with Mayer, she never seems discouraged. “It’s a dangerous time,” she says. “But it’s a very exciting time to be on the front lines.” She is frustrated but also fascinated, and she returns again and again to a question that has come to preoccupy her. “I’m pretty obsessed with what happened with Trump. How did he get elected in 2016? It still doesn’t feel quite right,” she says at one point. “How did it get so divided, so ugly?” she says at another. “Trying to figure out how we got into this and how we get out of it—there’s no question right now that’s more interesting.”…

Mayer watched the hearings at home, alone. Despite her reporting, it was only then that she made up her mind about Kavanaugh’s eligibility. “Almost everybody was a jerk in high school in some way, right?” she says. “For me, what was much more important was how he deals with the truth about who he was. And the fact that he couldn’t means you’ve got somebody on the court who, I think almost certainly, lied under oath.”

What does Mayer make of the fact that this happened, regardless of the pieces she and others had published? In general, when I ask her this kind of question, about the impact of her work or lack thereof, she repeats a version of the phrase “It’s not resistance, it’s reporting”—her point being that journalism is meant to inform, not influence. “Some people say reporters are the last naïves,” she told the audience during a recent talk at the University of Vermont. “I think most of us believe if we give people information, democracy will work.” It’s an idea echoed by Hill when I call her in late October. “I refuse to believe nothing has changed,” she says. “The truth is what matters. It’s all that matters.” …

31 replies
  1. 1
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    CLONE HER!

  2. 2
    Miss Bianca says:

    OK, not an open thread, but posting here anyway…please, BJ, please send all your good energy my way to help me find my lost Luna.

    The good news is, there has been a sighting! I just found out this morning from my vet’s office. Some guy with a vacation property not too far from my house got close enough to her to read her tag. He fed her a little – said she looked thin. : (

    The not-so-good news is that the sighting was last week. Not sure why it took them this long to get the word to me, but it is what it is. I am stuck at work right now but planning to head up to where she was seen with food and some of my smelly laundry – I am told to put out things that smell like me, or her, or both.

    Oh God, she was alive and still in the area last week. Please petition the universe with prayer. I need her back, I am coming unglued.

    Nod to topic: I am working my way through the Fox News piece and will be on to “Dark Money” soon. Jane Mayer is a national treasure, we need more like her.

  3. 3
    MattF says:

    I wonder if any of the Foxies has the guts to attack Mayer. Probably not. Which is a good thing– I wouldn’t want to see Mayer treated as just another left-wing celebrity target. In the meantime, she can continue to slip the knife into all sorts of interesting places.

  4. 4
    laura says:

    If she has a sqeeky toy, bring that too. I wish you all the best in getting Luna home.

    On topic, while there is only one Jane Mayer, there is no shortage of good reporting, but there’s an overabundance of staff layoffs in local, national and international news. We need to reverse media concentration

  5. 5
    Tenar Arha says:

    @Miss Bianca: Best wishes on your Luna search. I hope she’s home safely soon.

  6. 6
    Doug R says:

    Those of us paying attention in 2006 knew already, rules changed in 2007 when Nancy Pelosi took over in 2007:

    In San Francisco the “secret room” is Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large SBC phone building, three floors of which are occupied by AT&T. High-speed fiber-optic circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down to the 7th floor where they connect to routers for AT&T’s WorldNet service, part of the latter’s vital “Common Backbone.” In order to snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was installed and cabled to the “secret room” on the 6th floor to monitor the information going through the circuits.

    AT&T WHISTLE-BLOWER’S EVIDENCE Wired Staff 05.17.06

  7. 7
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    Good luck with Luna! I hope your runaway comes home safely soon.

    The article that is linked above tells the story of how Jane Meyer’s ex tried to keep her dog after they broke up, so she squeezed through the doggie door and retrieved it. That seems like a good omen. 🐶

  8. 8

    @Miss Bianca: I hope Luna comes home tonight

  9. 9
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @MattF:

    I wonder if any of the Foxies has the guts to attack Mayer.

    I doubt it. Meyer isn’t exactly a household name. If they use their programs to attack her, they’re just thrusting her work further into the public eye. Most of their viewers don’t read, but some do. And since Meyer’s work is decidedly non-partisan, she’s likely to pick up a few new readers.

    Of course, if the rest of the MSM reports on the story and FOX senses it’s a threat, they’ll trash her.

    Assholes.

  10. 10
    spudgun says:

    @Miss Bianca: Oh, Miss Bianca, I’m sending all the positive vibes I can!! Hang in there!! This is very good news (although WHY WHY WHY didn’t that guy hang onto her??).

    GOOD LUCK x 1000!!! Fingers crossed!!!

  11. 11
    jacy says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    Sending every bit of good energy I can. Please keep us updated!

  12. 12
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @Miss Bianca: Does Luna have a favorite ‘squeaky toy’? If so, you might take that along too. Cats can hear for miles.

  13. 13
    JaySinWA says:

    @The Midnight Lurker: I’ll be surprised if they don’t brand the article as fake news when Donnie tweets about it. Of course Donnie won’t have the stamina to read it, but someone is going to bring it up with him.
    ETA I doubt Hannity can avoid the bait himself, given his presence in the story.

  14. 14
    Martin says:

    @Doug R: Reminder that history is replete with survivors bias. Not many people today remember Joseph Nacchio, but here was a CEO that stood up and fought against this. Nacchio was convicted of insider trading, in a situation that’s difficult for me to evaluate. The CEO has been asked by the federal government to do something illegal. He refuses. He knows the government is going to make decisions that will substantially harm the company so he starts selling his stock. Did he have insider information? Sure. Could he tell the public? No, that too would put him in prison. He shouldn’t have sold the stock, but he’s also in a no-win situation that he has nowhere to turn to for advice, because that too is illegal. But once he went to prison, that incident largely went down the memory hole. Thankfully there are reporters like Mayer out there fighting against that. But the survivors of this situation are the ones that went along with the government and made money along the way.

  15. 15
    Jeffro says:

    “Dark Money “ was awesome, and frightening, and also awesome . Highly recommended

  16. 16
    Miss Bianca says:

    @spudgun: He couldn’t get close enough to her to hang onto her, is what I heard.

    Ack, I am trying to get out of here and now everyone is piling into the office.

  17. 17
    eclare says:

    @Miss Bianca: Fingers and toes crossed, I hope Luna comes home soon!

  18. 18
    rikyrah says:

    @Miss Bianca:
    Sending positive thoughts out into the universe for Luna 🙏❤️

  19. 19
    hitchhiker says:

    OT; I apologize.

    Just opened email to learn than our old friends Bob and Marcia, who had become the warmest, kindest expats in all of Ecuador, were attacked in their home on Saturday. He was killed. She was injured. My shock is absolute. If ever there was a couple more generous and gentle, I’d love to meet them.

    Then opened twitter and so the latest from theTweetofGod … “People die in entirely the wrong order.”

    Little batsqueak from this batty universe, perfectly timed. Fuck.

  20. 20
    NotMax says:

    Brought up from the possibly moribund thread downstairs.

    In line with the topic, highest recommendation to the hits too close to home dark satire The Perfect Dictatorship (La Dictadura Perfecta).

  21. 21
    Doug R says:

    @Miss Bianca: Our cat Tiger made a break for it when she was left out on the balcony overnight (1st floor). I brought her favorite scratch post outside under our balcony and spread catnip at the edge of the wooded property.
    I also left some cat food out, when I opened another can, a raccoon teleported out of the woods and wanted to know if it was for him? I had to hiss to get him to f* off.
    Finally after three days I saw Tiger come out of the woods to the edge of the clearing. It took another 4 days before she was hungry enough to approach my wife who was by now taking shifts in a camping chair under the balcony.
    So yeah, make plenty of friendly noise and have plenty of smelly food and treats bribes, just watch out for hungry critters like raccoons.

  22. 22
    Dog Mom says:

    @Miss Bianca: Wishing you strength and luck to retrieve your Luna soon. I know the stress of a missing dog too well.

  23. 23
    Miss Bianca says:

    @hitchhiker: oh, no. No words, except I am so sorry to hear it.

  24. 24
    TomatoQueen says:

    *makes UNIVERSE noises*
    UNIVERSE! Yeah, YOU. Get your mind right. Protect us some Jane Mayer in all her endeavors. Receive Bob and heal his Marcia and assuage grief. BRING LUNA HOME.

  25. 25
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    Praying so hard for Luna!

  26. 26
    Denali says:

    @hitchhiker,

    That is awful. Where were the couple living? I also have friends in Equador- in Cuenca. They say that there is a large ex pat community there. What was the motive? Robbery?

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    @hitchhiker:

    I’m so sorry. After having multiple bad things happen in our family and extended family, I have to say that murder was the hardest one to deal with, because it’s so unfair and inexplicable, and the questions tend to linger on even if they find the perpetrators.

    (My step-aunt’s taxi driver first husband was robbed and murdered, but luckily that’s the only one so far. Car accidents have been much more numerous and worse.)

  28. 28
    geg6 says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:

    For real. About a thousand times. She’s a national treasure.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Citizen_X says:

    @hitchhiker: Oh my god, that’s so horrible! Condolences to you and everyone else they know.

  31. 31
    low-tech cyclist says:

    And how many “beat-sweeteners” has Mayer had to write to get these stories?

    I don’t know for a fact, but my WAG would be ‘zero.’

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