Spending his life as a ‘Reporter’: Seymour Hersh 

My Lai. If you know anything at all about the war in Vietnam, you know this word.

It was the village where more than 100 unarmed civilians were killed by American soldiers during a 1968 offensive. The word has taken on literal and symbolic meaning.

We might not know the word at all if it had not been for the efforts of a remarkable, single-minded reporter named Seymour Hersh.

The story of how Hersh, then a broke freelance, stumbled on the appalling events at My Lai is familiar by now: when a military lawyer told him that a soldier at Fort Benning in Georgia was facing a court martial for killing at least 109 Vietnamese civilians, Hersh simply rocked up at the base and went door to door until he found 26-year-old Lt William L Calley Jr (he later followed this up with an even more amazing interview, this time with Paul Meadlo, a farm kid from Indiana who had shot many of the civilians before losing a leg himself). Reading about it here, though, you’re reminded all over again of just how hard it was to get such a scoop published. The first report was rejected out of hand by many media organisations, among them the New York Times, and carefully rewritten – Hersh sold it through a tiny agency – by others seemingly made nervous and resentful by it. Source: Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour Hersh – review | Books | The Guardian

The My Lai massacre story was one of many major scoops that Hersh broke in his remarkable career. Now he has written a memoir, Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour Hersh, and the quote above is from a review in The Guardian by Rachel Cooke.

Hersh has done what reporters are supposed to do: he has found things out that people — often powerful people have wanted to keep hidden — and he has reported those things. He has not always been right, and he has rarely been gentle.

But as a matter of personal and symbolic pride, he has never been invited to the White House for dinner.

Related:

See this earlier reference to My Lai in one of our March newsletters

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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