This is a scary book. Jason Leopold was not a nice guy. He was a creep who would screw over anyone for drugs first, then news "scoops" later.
This is a story of a guy whose misdirected intelligence and passion totally screw him up for a number of years. Finally, he starts to get on a path where he's doing some good, but he's still stuck with some very nasty habits that get him in trouble and keep him sabotaging himself, in spite of becoming a serial award winning reporter.
As a writer I found Jason's book very inspiring. Not the nasty stuff-- but Jason describes the creative and energetic ways he went after stories. I've written for national magazines, with my own share of cover stories, and I've done some investigative leg and phone work. But Jason's descriptions of his efforts have already inspired me to go the extra distance to dig further into articles. The first article I applied this to rose to the top five articles of the month on my website, where we've published at least 400 articles so far this month.
Jason writes about how he was tough on his reporters, as an editor. insisting that they go out on the street, covering their beat, not waiting for news to come to them. That's inspired me to take a similar approach in my own writing.
If you're a reporter, this book is different than any I've seen. It's wild and wooly and while a bit apologetic, brutally honest.
Recently, post the writing of this book, Jason reported that Karl Rove was about to be indicted by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the Plame CIA case. It didn't happen. Rove was never indicted. Now you could just write Jason off as an incompetent. But you could also wonder whether Rove got to Fitzgerald, or, that someone fed Jason bad info that was designed to set him up, because he was getting too close to the truth. I don't know what the answer is. Frankly, having published his report, I was embarassed by the article being wrong. When I got the word, I headlined the article. It didn't feel very good. But maybe that's what was supposed to happen-- what was intended by the people who set him up. I'm not apologizing for him. But I'm keeping my mind open to the possibility that the people who brought us the threat of WMDs in Iraq, who pulled one over on Colin Powell, the majority of the senate and most of the US could have also pulled one over on this news junkie.
I see Jason as a man who can make a difference. I'm glad he's working for the progressive cause now. The right wing fights very, very dirty. They lie, cheat, and since they run the mainstream media, they propagandize, cover up and gloss over news that should be covered that isn't.
We need more Jason Leopolds who are willing to do what it takes to dig up the truth. And we should expect that when he uses his enormous cojones to take on incredibly powerful, influential and wealthy players, he will occasionally be set up,occasionally stabbed in the back by editors, occasionally made to look bad, so his good work is questioned.
Bottom line, this gritty autobiography tells a tale of a man who becomes a drug addicted, dealing, thieving criminal who quits abusing, cleans up his act and really achieves some significant successes in his life, not leaving all his flaws behind, but steadily making progress.
It's a great read.
About the inspiring part-- one must be selective about what one is inspired by. I chose to be inspired by his creative, energetic approach to digging up stories. I'll be encouraging the 160+ writers who regularly contribute to my website to read this book.
I find it interesting and extremely unusual that there are, at the writing of this review, a dozen reviews on Amazon.com, most of them positive. All the positive, four or five star reviews have been rated as unhelpful by two to one. My guess is that some of the right wingers who have been attacking the author in the blogoverse have decided to "tar" the positive reviews. I expect the same will happen to this one. The fact is, I doubt that these review commenters have read the book, or care to. It is dishonest to take this approach.