Gay Talese, the legendary journalist who most recently made headlines for ethical scandals surrounding his 2016 book “The Voyeur’s Motel,” is well-dressed, unsurprisingly verbose, and cranky. Those are the prime takeaways on Talese’s persona from Moran Sharir’s interview with the icon for Haaretz, published on February 3. But what of the man’s opinions on the modern world, the development of which he has — from sexual mores to journalistic practice — so carefully observed?
Best to let Talese say it.
On the question of whether President Donald Trump is anti-Semitic: “I’m so angry at how easily the term ‘anti-Semitism’ is dispensed, unfairly. How many fathers are there who have a favorite daughter, and the daughter marries an Orthodox Jew, and their children are Orthodox,” he pondered.
On his interpretation, as a life-long Democrat, of Trump’s promise as a president: “This crazy Trump, hustler, real estate tycoon, I think he’s better than Obama. We love to say Obama is Frederick Douglass, Obama is Booker T. Washington, Obama is Paul Robeson, the enlightenment. Well it didn’t work.”
On why, in his view, journalism more and more frequently resembles opinion writing: “It’s this post-9/11 atmosphere, approaching jingoism or certainly nationalism, the economic conditions and the decline in advertising revenue, the financial uncertainty of the media world. Companies like The New York Times or television stations have to be so careful not to offend anyone.”
And on why journalists, as he posited, are failing to do the deep, dirty investigative work of days of yore, instead choosing to take expedient, desk-bound routes to information: “We were the outsiders, we hated power, we didn’t identify with it, we didn’t want to join them. And what do we have three generations later? You know what we have? There’s no fucking anti-Semitism. That’s the real problem today: There’s no anti-Semitism. The Jews were the best journalists. You know why? Because they were pissed off.”
What would Talese say to his own opinions, as aggregated by this desk-bound creature of the modern media, becoming news? It’s safe to say he’d scoff. But the news cycle demands its dues; that much, at least, doesn’t change.