Literary Journalism on Trial
Masson v. New Yorker and the First Amendment
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Table of Contents
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This book is no exception. I wish to thank a number of people for helping me think through complex legal and historical issues raised in this book. The first among these is Ruth Walden, James Howard and Hallie McLean Parker Distinguished Professor and former Associate Dean for Graduate Studies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of...
Introduction. Journalism, Libel Law, and the Problem of Facts
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In late November 1984, Jeffrey Masson filed a libel suit against Janet Malcolm, the New Yorker magazine, and the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.,1 initiating a dispute that would make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and occupy the federal court system for almost twelve years. Masson accused Malcolm of libeling him by fabricating quotations...
Chapter 1. Masson v. New Yorker Goes to Trial
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In a federal district courthouse in San Francisco, participants in the libel trial of Masson v. New Yorker waited for the jury’s verdict.1 Journalists and spectators crowded U.S. District Judge Eugene Lynch’s seventeenth floor courtroom, some standing in the back, others sitting in the aisles.2 It was Thursday, June 3, 1993—the third day of jury...
Chapter 2. Literary Journalism and the New Yorker
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The New Yorker magazine has long had a reputation as a stronghold of literary journalism in American culture. Established in 1925 under the editorial leadership of Harold Ross, the New Yorker was, in the beginning, a humor magazine written primarily for a New York...
Chapter 3. The Historical Origins of the Masson - Malcolm Dispute
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To a historian looking for meaning in the interaction between events and texts and their cultural and social contexts, Masson v. New Yorker 1 began long before Masson and Malcolm even met. As we have seen, its roots can be found in the early twentieth century, when contemporary...
Chapter 4. Libel at the New Yorker
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In the history of American journalism, the power of libel law to chill press expression has been a notable constant in a sea of change. In the late nineteenth century, at the very moment the press began to professionalize, libel suits against the press began to proliferate. Appellate courts, in turn, increasingly supported plaintiffs. As a result, newspapers came...
Chapter 5. Masson v. New Yorker in the Early Years
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When Jeffrey Masson filed his first complaint against Janet Malcolm in 1984, it was simply one in what many scholars have characterized as an unusual explosion of libel cases in the 1970s and 1980s.1 A number of social and cultural forces produced this marked shift in the arena...
Chapter 6. Libel Law and the Post modern Dilemma: The Search for Truth
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In 1964 the United States Supreme Court articulated a First Amendment theory famously protective of free expression: “We consider this case,” Justice William Brennan wrote in the landmark libel case New York Times v. Sullivan,“against the background of a profound national commitment...
Chapter 7. The End of the Line for Masson
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Masson v. Malcolm is, in the end, a story about truth. Who was telling the truth about whether Masson uttered the self-incriminating remarks that were the subject of the case—Masson or Malcolm? How can we determine whether a speaker’s words are truthfully represented in press expression? At what point does the alteration of a quotation materially...
Conclusion: The Meanings of the Masson - Malcolm Dispute
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In its simplest terms, Masson v. New Yorker is a story about two competing conceptions of what makes a truthful report of the world. It is the story of two forms of reporting in American journalism—the traditional and the literary—and the continuities and ruptures in their respective development across the twentieth century. At its most...
Appendix: The Disputed Quotations
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2008