February 2020 Book Club

This month’s book selection was Ronan Farrow’s 2019 bestseller Catch and Kill. The book is a memoir of Farrow’s experiences uncovering and reporting on several of the allegations of sexual abuse and harassment that sparked the #MeToo movement. Though most of the book focuses on the quest to bring producer Harvey Weinstein to justice, many, many more men are implicated, from Farrow’s own father, Woody Allen, to the current president of the United States. One of the most distressing things is that uncovering the truth is often easier than revealing it to the world: Time and again, Farrow and his colleagues confront institutions and individuals with vested interests in keeping dark secrets hidden. Even the corporations that fund journalism are found to be complicit.

Lexi Wangler and McKenna Smith agreed that the book was an invaluable glimpse into the journalistic process; they learned the way reporters think, but also found out much they’d like to forget about corporate executives’ vested interests. There are a few exceptions, like David Remnick and his colleagues at The New Yorker, but again and again Farrow found himself stymied by C-suite intervention in his reporting. NBC, for example, spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours preserving the reputation of the since-fired Matt Lauer. 

Layla Tabatabaie admitted that she cited Catch and Kill almost daily in discussions of media bias, institutional conservatism, and the innumerable breaks abusive men receive. She only hopes that it becomes less topical as the years go by: The corruption, crime, and bad faith described in this book are all intolerable, but they’re also, for the moment, facts of life that need addressing. 

The meeting concluded without setting a date or a book for the next meeting, but members of the Wachsman team have made several suggestions. The consensus was that a lighter book, preferably fiction, should follow Catch and Kill. Possibilities being considered include Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer-winning comic novel Less, Sally Rooney’s acclaimed Normal People, and Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley.