Janet Malcolm, ‘The Journalist and the Murderer’ Author, Dies at 86

Award-winning nonfiction writer often explored the ethical dilemmas of journalism itself

janet malcolm
Photo: Nancy Crampton via Malcolm family

Janet Malcolm, a longtime writer for the New Yorker, died Wednesday of lung cancer, according to the New York Times.

Malcolm, who wrote “The Journalist and the Murderer,” often focused her work on ethical dilemmas within her own profession. Her other books included “Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession,” “In the Freud Archives” and “Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice.” She also published a number of essay collections, including “The Purloined Clinic: Selected Writings” and “Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers.”

Although Malcolm frequently dispensed sharp critiques of peers in her profession — and her most famous work began with the sentence, “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible” — she was beloved by colleagues. On Thursday, as news of her death broke, media figures paid her tribute online.

New Yorker digital editor Michael Luo posted her digitized archive in her honor Thursday.

Guardian opinion writer Moira Donegan tweeted, “Janet Malcolm was a giant of both style and argument. ‘The Journalist and the Murderer’ is rightly required reading for young writers; ‘In the Freud Archives’ and ‘The Impossible Profession’ have been indispensable for me personally. What a legend.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow called her “magic on earth.”


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