In the many recent controversies over falsehoods and exaggerations in nonfiction articles and books, it’s usually the author’s desire to tell a more conventionally satisfying story that gets the blame. It’s more heartrending if the reporter has actually met the victims of workplace poisoning face-to-face and more exciting if the addiction memoirist demonstrated his commitment to sobriety by undergoing a root canal without anesthesia. Less discussed is the reporter’s sometimes perilous dependence on his or her sources. The person who helps the most is often the one whose version of the story gets the most prominent play. A journalist who contradicts a major source’s version risks being accused of betrayal and misrepresentation by someone who may have come to seem like a friend.
Salon investigates the “nonfiction” aspect of Capote’s In Cold Blood.