Peggy Noonan on How Great Tabloid Reporters Would Have Covered the Jeffrey Epstein Story

Peggy Noonan brings New York tabloid reporter Mike McAlary (1957-1998) back to life in this from her Wall Street Journal column “A Tabloid Legend on Jeffrey Epstein’s Death”:

If Epstein killed himself, he chose the time he knew the guards were asleep. If Epstein was murdered, his killer chose the time he knew the guards were asleep. Incompetence is completely believable but insufficient.

The papers are doing their stories about those strange Americans with their quirky ways burning up the internet with their quaint conspiracies. But who would not wonder about foul play? With all the people who’d want him dead?

This whole thing is a big stinkin’, fumin’ hunk of foul-up. And there’s still time to get this story. I miss the tough, crazy beat reporters of yore. Like me. I got cancer and was on chemo when I got a tip about a police-brutality story. I tore the IV out of my arm and ran to the sound of the crap!

So Jimmy Breslin it. McAlary it. Hell, Steve Dunleavy it. There was a story, too good to check: Dunleavy gets there early when the Berlin Wall’s starting to fall, sees the kids dancing in the streets. He wires home, says send me a dozen sledgehammers. Next day he hands them out to the kids, they jump on the wall and start hammering. The photographs were beautiful! Caught an existential truth! That’s a reporter!

Work every source and angle, every prison guard and cop you know—you’re supposed to know them! Pete Hamill would have known the estranged sister of the night nurse at the ER. He’d wait at her house, she’d tell him the EMTs came in laughing about “Who do you think killed the guy who suicided?” Or maybe she’d say they were nervous and just plopped him down and scrammed. But he’d have gotten the color, the feel. And it would suggest something.

Where is this Maxwell lady hiding? You believe nobody knows where she is? You’re an idiot. Go find Maxwell House! Live on the stoop! Ask her: Did you flip? Because I figure she went state’s evidence on Epstein and he knew. “Are you in hiding in fear for your life? Who wants to kill you, Ms. Maxwell?”

It’s like reporting now takes place in green rooms. People say it’s all gossip but it’s not, because gossip is fun. It’s more like data points formalized around some vaporous Official View.

It’s like every great media organization is tied up in this complicated, soul-crushing, virtue-signalling fearfulness, this vast miasma of progressive political theory and ideology and correctness and “please report to HR”—and it has nothing to do with the mission. The mission is to get the story!

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