There are so many show-offs in journalism.
So many braggarts and jerks.
They are always selling, always working the room, always trying to make themselves look hotter than they actually are.
The good news is, reporters like that make it easy to distinguish yourself.
If you're even a little bit humble, a little self-effacing or solicitous, you stand out.
So you bring a co-worker lunch if he's buried under a deadline, you remember birthdays.
It's true, journalism is hard work, everybody's under pressure, everybody's grinding to get the issue out.
Nobody's getting any sleep, but you are allowed to smile every once in a while.
I mean, even Woodward and Bernstein went out for a burger now and then, and they won a Pulitzer.
Some reporters think it's political content that makes a story memorable.
I think it's the people you find-- their quirks, their flaws, what makes them funny, what makes them human.
Journalism is just the art of capturing behavior.
You have to know who you're writing for.
And you have to know what you're good at.
I record what people do, I find out what moves them, what scares them, and I write that down.
That way, they are the ones telling the story.
You know what? Those kind of pieces can win Pulitzers too.
Contributing writer for Harper's Magazine, contributing writer for George magazine, contributing writer for Rolling Stone, and of course, associate editor of The New Republic magazine in Washington D.C.
Sorry if I'm beaming, but, you know, I was his journalistic muse.
Just seven years ago, he was sitting... right there.
I'm sorry. Right there.
And I was doing the exact same thing you guys are doing-- grinding out pieces and then having horrid nightmares of Mrs. Duke and her infamous red pen.
And see what happens when greatness is demanded of you?
Now he's at The New Republic.
And now I'm at The New Republic.
ln May, the editors of The New Republic magazine...
...with The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Boston Globe.
But the bill was blasted in The New Republic this week.
You're very helpful. I just wanted to get a confirmation...
So, I said, "Network news, network news. Hmm.
"Oh, right, that's that show that's on every night
"between those 'Fixodent' commercials, right?" That shut him up.
Hey, Steve. Hey, Steve.
Gloria, that necklace is you. Thanks, doll.
I got some new merchandise. For your girlfriend.
As soon as I get this piece done. How is it coming?
Horrible. - Uh-huh.
It's the fundamental nature of the magazine, Lew.
Mallory, can I get some copies? - Sure.
People want photographs, they can buy Newsweek.
They do buy Newsweek. And Time, and US News & World Report. And our losses are a joke.
Let me guess. He's on you again about a redesign.
Yeah, cover page and graphics. And photographs.
Let me remind you, Steve, this magazine hasn't changed its look since the '80s.
How is it?
You hate it. No, it's good. It's a little rough.
No, it's the worst thing I ever wrote. It's horrible.
If you guys don't help me with it, I'm not even going to send it in.
When is it due? Tomorrow.
I may have to kill myself.
I mean, The New York Times Magazine!
Will you guys help me with it, please?
Of course. Of course.
Call for you on three, sweetie. Someone from Policy Review.
When did you start talking to Policy Review?
I'm not. It's probably nothing. Send it to my voicemail, okay?
Oh, and sweetie...? Mm-hmm?
Caitlin just told me that she needs gifts for... two showers next week?
You think you might have something for her?
I'll get my box.
I couldn't resist. So, do you want to do this now, or...
Yeah, in a second. I have to return a quick phone call.
I got you some gum.
If I were to throw a party, where all we did was play "Monopoly," would you guys come? Could I be the little shoe?
The lawyers have asked us to tone down the cover on Serbia.
They have? It might invite charges of libel.
I know a little bit of libel law, it's only relevant if the person in question has been out of the public eye.
Well, yes. So there is Serbia, hidden, unknown to the world at large, until... it appeared on the cover of The New Republic.
Our weekly circulation of 80,000.
81.5. You almost done with it, Rob?
Two days. Tops. Yes, two days from Chanukah.
Hey, it's basically finished... for the most part.
Next up. Amy?
Just finished the piece on ethanol subsidies.
There are 16,800 magazines in this country.
But only one calls itself "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One."
And that's the thrill of working at The New Republic.
You're underpaid, the hours are brutal, but what you write gets read by people who matter.
Presidents, lawmakers... Your work can actually influence public policy.
That's... That's an amazing privilege, and a huge responsibility.
I'm sorry. They don't want to hear the whole "journalistic responsibility" speech... Do you?
You just want to know how to get your name in print, right?
That sounds familiar. Okay.
Let me take you through the life of your typical piece so you can see what some of the hurdles are.
We'll use one I wrote last year, about a bunch of Young Republicans at a Conservatives' convention.
Now, journalism is about pursuing the truth.
And I would never encourage you to do anything sneaky or dishonest in pursuit of a story, such as assuming a phony identity.
I don't know, man. It seemed like a pretty good turnout to me.
No, man. Conservatism is dead.
Dead? We're lost.
On a story like that, your notes are crucial.
You have to record everything you see and hear.
Every quote, every detail... all the way down to the mini-bottles in the fridge.
We're like this guy who has to pee, lost in the desert, looking for a tree.
That's true. Completely true.
You guys know what you're shopping for, right?
Get us a real "heifer." The fatter the better.
Bad acne would be a bonus.
Let's do it!
Hey, Steve. Hey, Chuck.
What are you working on?
A piece Gabriel García Marquez wrote about the Falklands War.
How about you?
Young Republicans at a CPAC Conference.
Pretty standard stuff.
Hotel ballrooms, boring speeches. Chicken dinners.
Which is why everybody spends their time in the suites upstairs committing felonies.
Yeah. I went to one. The ballroom was empty.
Every delegate under the age of 25 was on the fifth floor getting loaded.
Drugs, binge drinking, hookers...
It gets pretty ugly.
Sounds great, Steve. So does yours.
Okay, well, I gotta get back to work. Have a good lunch.
Hold it. Have to give myself a demerit for poor scene setting.
Let me explain. A year ago, Chuck Lane and I were peers.
He hadn't become editor yet.
Michael Kelly was editing the magazine then.
Sorry, Mrs. Duke. I know how you feel about clarity.
We've got to start calling some other places.
I don't think I can eat this stuff every day.
It was the Cannon Building. You had it as "Russell."
I fixed it.
Thank you. I really liked it, Ames.
But boring, right?
No. No. I really, really liked it.
Ahem... Yes, dear?
Somebody for you on three. Someone from Harper's.
When did you start talking to Harper's?
I'm not. It's probably nothing. Could you send it to my voicemail?
Very good. By the way, Glo', that lipstick is the bomb.
Thanks, doll. Was it "Midnight Mist"?
I've really got to stop doing that. What?
All I do is give people more reasons to assume I'm gay.
I mean, lately, it's everyone.
The other night, I went out to dinner with this guy from The Post...
Who? I can't tell you, he made me promise.
Anyway, we're walking afterwards, talking about Medicare for God's sakes, the next thing I know is we're standing on the corner of 18th and "T"... and he somehow managed to slip his tongue down my throat.
And I'm like, "Wait a minute, how'd this happen?"
I don't understand. Neither did I.
Do you have a minute? Of course.
We have a problem with the "Spring Breakdown" piece.
Just got a letter from David Keene. He ran the CPAC Conference.
He's made... Are you mad at me?
He's made some pretty serious charges. We need to answer them.
Okay. My notes are at home.
I can be back in 20 minutes. ls that too long?
Do your notes have anything about the minibars? That would help.
I think so. No, I'm sure. Why?
He claims the Omni Shoreham doesn't even have minibars.
He mentioned it specifically. No, I saw them.
There were little bottles of booze all over the room.
Okay. I'll get Aaron and Rob into it, and start the fact-check again.
I'll get my notes. Thank you.
I'm sorry, we're gonna have to finish this later.
No, no. I understand. Thank you.
Just tell me.
Keene was right, Michael.
I messed up.
I made a huge error.
I don't know what to say. If you want me to resign, I will.
I want you to tell me what happened.
They don't have minibars at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
I guess I just saw all those little bottles and I made an assumption, which I know we're never supposed to do.
I'm really sorry.
Those guys were drinking out of a rented refrigerator.
That's it? Yeah.
The rest of the piece is solid? Well, yeah, of course.
Go home, Steve. Your resignation will not be required.
Really? You're not mad? Of course not.
Do you want my notes?
Have a good night.
Thanks for backing me.
It's what editors do.
Hi, front desk, please?
Hi, I need some information.
Do the suites of your hotel have minibars?
Well, can a guest rent something like that-- like a mini-refrigerator or something?
They can? Okay, thank you very much.
And she says, "I didn't invite Vernon Jordan that evening, "because my guests of honor were girls from Smith College.
"Some of them were virgins, and I wanted to keep it that way."
And you are going to put that in the article, right?
Gosh, Alec, I don't know.
I mean, George is such a dignified publication.
You wouldn't want to put in something that gossipy, would you?
No, absolutely not.
Of course I'm putting it in.
Thank you Steve. You are going to make me look very, very smart.
Er, the Fritos are running dangerously low.
I'll be right back.
Can't hide in here all night, Ames.
Can I ask you something?
What is this?
I found it in the freezer.
You said you hated how the Diet Coke at parties was always at room temperature. and if you wanted to drink it cold, you'd have to put it on ice and it would get too watery. Don't you remember?
Yeah, I do, but...
I said that a couple of years ago.
I'm going to call it a night, but thanks for having me.
Thanks for coming.
Alphabetized beer, that's perfect.
Drive safe, Alec. Who's he?
Associate Editor of George.
When did you start talking to George?
I'm really not.
It's probably nothing.
You know, if they stoop any lower, you won't be able to tell the difference between Time and People.
You say that as if there is a difference between Time and People.
Exactly. Hey! Thank you, Steve.
Are you mad at me?
I told you, I do not respond to "Are you mad at me?"
I'm not your kindergarten teacher.
I thought we'd been over this a thousand times already.
You can't go to law school.
You don't want to go to law school, remember?
I know. It's only nights. I wouldn't have to stop working.
I'm going to put these down. I'll be right back.
No, I want to talk about this.
I told you, it's my parents. Okay?
They never shut up about it.
If I don't go, they won't let me be a journalist anymore.
"Let you"? You're 24 years old, Stephen!
You don't know how things go where I grew up, Caitlin.
There are rules there.
If your son's not a doctor or a lawyer, you keep your curtains closed.
You're writing for The New-fucking-Republic. lsn't that good enough?
Not in Highland Park.
I'm sorry, I... Stop apologizing for everything!
I was looking through your mail. You should be pissed at me.
You're going to throw this out, right?
I can't. I'm sorry.
Every station on the radio was talking about it--
Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield.
And these are supposed to be news stations, so on Tuesday I started calling a few of them, and I finally got through to one.
A Bible-talk station in Kentucky.
And I managed to convince the screener that I was a behavioral psychologist who "specializes in human-on-human biting."
I told the guy that I'd done all this extensive research on people who chomp flesh under extreme stress...
And what did they say?
They put me on the air, I took calls for 45 minutes.
Oh, my God!
Where does he find these people?
It's kind of stupid, I know. It's silly.
I'll probably just kill it.
Does that mean you'll help me with it?
Why? Do you have finals this week?
Okay, moving right along.
Chuck, what do you have for us?
That's a bit of a hard act to follow.
Very hard act to follow.
I'm starting the piece on Haiti, and I'll be going to--
Hey. Don't let me interrupt.
Hey, Marty. - Michael.
I'm going to be going to Port-au-Prince for a few days.
Marty Peretz, our boss, he's a little scary.
How about the commas and dates? Are we supposed to circle those too?
Let's just get this done, okay?
What the hell is this?
Marty told us to circle all the commas in the last issue, so he could show us how we used them improperly.
He said, "Commas should always appear in pairs."
Apparently the issue was rife with comma errors.
"Rife"? That's what he said.
No, I'm not angry, Marty. I'm embarrassed for you.
These people work grueling hours for meager pay.
They deserve a thank you, not another one of your world-famous tantrums.
Yeah, okay. I'd resign before I'd let you bully them like that again.
And I will. Do you understand that?
Okay. Thank you.
The great comma debate is history, so we can all go back to work.
There are good editors, there are bad editors.
You'll have both.
My hope for you, though, is that once, at least once you get a truly great one.
A great editor defends his writers... against anyone. He stands up, and fights for you.
Michael Kelly was that kind of editor.
He had that kind of courage.
And that's what hung him.
Hey, Chuck, it's Marty Peretz. You got a minute?
Of course, how are you, Marty?
I'm in a bit of an uncomfortable situation.
I thought you might be able to help me out.
Sure. It's about Mike.
Oh. He and I...
Well, it hasn't been working out for some time now, as you know.
The tone of the magazine I think it's... gotten too nasty!
It's strayed from the traditions that make it great.
And... I'm going to be making a change.
I'd like you to step in for him, Chuck. I'd like you to become Editor.
There's a catch, of course. Mike doesn't know any of this yet, and it's gonna be two or three days before I tell him.
It'll have to remain between us until then. Would that be a problem?
Marty, Mike's a friend. I appreciate that, Chuck.
But I can't remove him until I know who is going to be his replacement for continuity's sake. So this is how it has to be.
I'm gonna have to think about this.
I'm gonna have to discuss it with Caterina.
Of course, of course! Listen.../i>
Marty, have you thought about the impact this might have on the staff?
They feel very...
He's earned a lot of loyalty there.
Yes, mostly by fighting with me.
The point is, I haven't earned that kind of loyalty. If it looks like--
I'll be there tomorrow. We'll go over all this in detail.
Will you call me at the hotel? Yeah.
I really appreciate this, Chuck-- your discretion.
Good night. 'Night, Marty.
So, I just got off the phone with Marty, and I've been fired, effective immediately.
I'm to be out of the building by 5:00 p.m.
Chuck Lane has been chosen to replace me.
Chuck is not an editor.
He's barely even a writer.
There's no way I'm gonna be able to work for him.
We should've seen this coming-- the way he laughs whenever Marty tells a joke in the meetings.
They're never funny, but there's Chuck completely howling. He's so political.
And stiff, and humorless.
And pissy. I mean, how pissy does he get whenever you try to fact-check one of his pieces?
It's like, I'm sorry, but we have an obligation to get our facts straight.
Okay, let's not overdo it.
This is still a great magazine, it's still an important magazine.
And... Monday morning he's going to be running it.
I'm going to barf.
All right. Let me get out of here, okay?
Well, I just want to thank you all again. Truly.
I've loved every second of this.
Good luck, Mike.
You too, Chuck.
So... sorry about what happened when he left.
I just didn't know what to do.
If you need a hand with the boxes, I'll be in my office.
So Chuck took over, and the job, for the first time ever, began to feel like a job.
But I'm being unfair.
The truth is, I wrote 14 pieces while Chuck was editing the magazine.
And the last of them, was the biggest story I ever wrote. ls anyone interested in hackers?
Because I met this kid named lan Restil.
Biggest computer geek of all time.
He hacked his way into the database of a company called Jukt Micronics, and posted naked pictures of women and the salary of every Jukt employee on Jukt's website with a note saying, "The Big Bad Bionic Boy has been here, baby!"
The guys at Jukt decided that it would be cheaper to hire him as security consultant than it would be to try to stop him, so they met with him last week at the hotel where the National Hackers' Conference was taking place.
It was the chairman from Jukt, Restil, Restil's mother and Restil's agent.
Yes, hackers have agents too.
All right, I was at the table with these guys.
Restil's just laying out all of his demands.
"I want a Miata..." I want a trip to Disney World.
"I want X-Men comic book No. 1."
I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy. "And throw in Penthouse."
And they're complying with every single word.
Excuse me, sir. Pardon me for interrupting.
We can arrange more money for you, and you can buy the comic yourself.
And when you're of a more appropriate age, you can buy the car and pornographic magazines on your own.
After that, after they have the meeting, he goes back into the conference, where all these hackers have gathered, and they're treating him like he's a rock star.
Then Restil jumps up on a table, and he's, like, I want a Miata!
And he's gyrating his hips like this. "I want a Miata!"
"I want my Playboys! "I want a trip to Disney World!"
Show me the money!
"Show me the money!"
Turns out there are now 21 states considering versions of a law called the "Uniform Computer Security Act," which would criminalize immunity deals between hackers and the companies they've torched.
Meanwhile, Restil's agent claims a client list of over 300, one of whom was once paid a million dollars... and a monster truck.
It's really silly, I know.
I'm not even sure if I'm going to finish it.
Yes, I rang.
Why didn't you get this?
Yeah. Oh, that...
I don't know.
Hey. ls it pronounced "jooked" or "jucked"?
It's pronounced, "Give me back my article."
Adam! Can you give a man a minute?
Oh, yeah. I'm sorry.
Er, it's just that... this New Republic piece is a fucking sieve.
I started with a check on Jukt Micronics, which is supposed to be this major software company in California.
I went through every search engine on the Web. No matches found.
So I called 411, every area code in the state.
There's no listing anywhere for a company called Jukt Micronics.
Tried the California Tax Franchise Board, there's no record of taxes ever having been paid by a company called Jukt Micronics.
Tried the State Comptroller's Office--
No license has ever been applied for by a company using that name.
Then I called all the hackers I know, asking if any had heard of a National Assembly of Hackers, or a hacker by the name of Big Bad Bionic Boy.
Nothing. I even tried lan Restil himself.
There's no listing for the kid in D.C., Virginia, Maryland.
There's no record of him ever having attended a public school before.
This guy Joe Hiert was described in the Glass piece as being this former basketball agent, yet no one by that name has ever been registered with the NBA and none of my hackers knew of him.
I even checked the names of every government--
I was just getting some coffee.
I checked the names of every government employee quoted in the piece, against a book listing the names of every government employee in the entire United States. None of the Glass sources were listed.
But there is one thing in this story that checks out.
There does appear to be a state in the Union named Nevada.
For Christ's sakes. God, I'm sorry, Stephen.
I wanted to see if you read it yet. It was sitting right here, you know?
Don't hate me, okay?
Stephen, you shredded it.
I'm trying to spare you a spanking, David.
You've got blind quotes all over the place.
Your facts are shaky. I mean...
The line about the turnover at DOT was low by 4½%. I checked.
Of course you did.
Rob and Aaron would kill you over that kind of stuff.
This is The New Republic, remember?
Nothing slides here. If you don't have it cold, you don't turn it in, ever.
Look, bring me your notes later, and we'll go through it together.
There's a lot about it that I liked.
And get back to work, okay? The mailroom floor needs scrubbing.
Okay. Thanks, Stephen.
"You have one unheard message. First message."
"Hi, Stephen, this is Adam Penenberg, from Forbes Digital Tool.
"I just got done reading your hacker article.
"First of all, congratulations.
"I mean, everybody here just loved it.
"But we wanted to do a companion piece to it
"sort of a 'Day Two' story, "and I'm having some trouble tracking down lan Restil.
"Do you think I could get a phone number on him from you?"
Look, I think it's good that you tried this.
It's good to stretch. I just...
I don't think you're writing to your strengths here.
I mean... Can l?
I'm wondering why you'd want to stray from the things you do so well?
Have you noticed the way Steve's phone has been ringing lately?
Did you see all those editors at the Correspondents' Dinner?
The way they were circling him? ls that what you want, Amy?
To get a bunch of smoke blown up your ass by a pack of editors?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Caitlin, he's going to double his salary freelancing like that.
These guys don't want policy pieces anymore.
They want color, they want nuance, humor.
But Amy, you don't write funny.
It's a little funny... isn't it?
I was just looking for Steve. He's in his office.
You got a minute, Steve? Yeah.
Do you have phone numbers for sources on the "Hack Heaven" piece?
Mm-hm, but they're at home. Can I get them?
Of course. Did I do something wrong? Are you mad at me?
No, I just need the phone numbers.
Okay. Okay, I'm trying to keep cool about all this, but... you know the "Uniform Computer Security Act," in the Glass piece?
Supposed to be under debate in 21 state legislatures?
I just checked off 50-- No such act.
And Julie Farthwork, from the "Computer Security Center"?
Not too sure she exists either.
Same with Jim Ghort of the "Center for lnterstate Online lnvestigations."
And I've got nothing on the "National Assembly of Hackers," or "Frank Juliet."
Do you know why this is so great? I mean, do you see the irony here?
The New Republic-- snobbiest rag in the business, "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One"-- and their star goes out and gets completely snowed by a bunch of hackers.
I mean, God couldn't have written this any better.
Adam? - Yeah?
As long as I'm grinding away on this thing, any chance you'd share your byline with me?
We're in uncharted territory here, Adam-- an online magazine going after a giant.
You should have somebody beside you to take some of the flak in case this thing blows up.
Gosh, that's touching. You're completely swamped.
You're behind on the Kim Polese piece. I know it's due Friday.
I'll get to it.
Everything that I'm working on is so... dull, and this is spectacular.
It's not like you found the story yourself. Kambiz handed it to you.
If I hadn't been at the dentist, it might be me about to get famous.
So why don't you just... share the wealth, okay? Shit!
That came out a lot uglier than I meant it. Sorry.
Well, lan Restil e-mailed me right back.
It might be tough to put you in touch with him directly, though, or at least until next week. This is his e-mail--
"Your story screwed up my deal, I don't to talk to y--"
I think he meant... "I don't want to talk to you."
Yeah. "I'm on vacation with my parents, so leave me alone."
What kind of parent goes on vacation with their kid in early May?
That's a good question.
I guess you have to know his mom. She's a little quirky.
That's his e-mail address, if you want to write him yourself.
These are all my notes.
That's the number for the National Assembly of Hackers.
Don't be thrown if all you hear is a dark, deep, heavy breathing.
It's... I don't know, their outgoing voicemail message.
Don't ask me why.
And then that's the number for Jukt Micronics.
The chairman's name is George Sims.
I can't figure why this Penenberg guy would have such hard time finding it, but you know, whatever.
That's the URL to their website. and then, I can't seem to find Joe Hiert's number.
I was looking all over at home. It's somewhere there. I know it is.
I'll get that to you tomorrow, if that's okay.
He's Restil's agent.
Should I... I'll give you some privacy.
No. Have a seat. "650," is that Palo Alto?
Er, no, Silicon Valley.
You'll probably get a voicemail. I usually do.
"You've reached the offices of Jukt Micronics.
"Please leave a message."
This is Charles Lane, I'm calling from The New Republic magazine in Washington D.C. I'd like to speak to George Sims, if I could.
They already have our number.
I guess you already have our number. Thank you.
I'm sorry. We've just like spoken a million times now.
That's actually his voice on the answering machine.
Sims is so hands-on, he won't even let his secretary do an outgoing message.
This is Adam.
Hi, it's Chuck Lane. Hi, Chuck.
I've got a phone number for you. Phone number for what?
For George Sims, at Jukt Micronics. You got a pen?
It's a phone number for Jukt Micronics.
"You've reached the offices of Jukt Micronics.
"Please leave a message."
Do me a favor.
Call this number, the same time I do, okay?
"You've reached the offices of Jukt Micronics.
"Please leave a message." What did you get?
It's voicemail. I got a busy signal. Hang up.
Try again, okay?
"You've reached the offices of Jukt--" I get a voicemail. Hang up.
A major software company with one phone line?
How are you doing?
He's up to 103°. Oh, shit.
Come here, buddy.
Should I give him a bath? That would be great.
How are you doing?
Hello, this is George Sims. May I speak with Charles Lane?
One moment, please.
Honey, it's George Sims.
I'll take him.
Come on, sweetheart. Yes, yes...
Yeah, this is George Sims, from Jukt Micronics.
Am I speaking with Charles Lane?
Mr. Sims, thank you for calling me back.
I don't have time for this actually. We're trying to have an office party.
Look, if you were calling for a comment on your story, I don't have one, other than to say, I wish you'd never run the stupid thing.
That stuff was supposed to be off the record, and your reporter knows it, that Glass guy.
I'm calling to verify information. I'm not verifying anything.
Bottom line is, I'd like you guys to basically get lost, okay?
- Hey. David.
I'm sorry, Steve. Shit.
I didn't mean to startle you. I thought you'd like a cup of coffee.
What are you doing here? Working late.
Working on my article, so I don't get shredded again.
Thank you. You're welcome.
I always forget to ask you. How are your studies coming?
They're fine. I'm... just buried.
You're buried. Right.
Okay. I should probably let you get back to it. ls there anything you need? No. Good night, David.
Good night. Thanks, Steve.
I got it.
Hello? Chuck? it's Steve.
Sorry to be calling so late.
I was just wondering...
Did you get a call from the Jukt guy? George Sims?
- I did, yeah. Yeah. I was just sitting here, and I realized that I'd given him your home number without asking you first. And I wanted to apologize.
It's fine. Sort of a prick, didn't you think?
I couldn't really tell because he hung up so fast.
Are you at home, Steve? No. Why?
I left a message on your machine.
The Forbes guys want to talk to us again.
There's a conference call at 9:00 a.m.
Sure. Sounds like a party.
Okay, 'night, Chuck. - See you in the morning.
Want a laugh? Sure.
The website for Jukt Micronics. Oh, good.
Yeah, you might not think so when you see what's on it.
I don't think Mr. Sims liked our piece that much.
Yeah. And I found this too. It was on my fridge for some reason. lan Restil's agent, Joe Hiert.
I'd like to pause for a moment.
You can't go into the world of journalism without first understanding how a piece gets edited at a place like TNR.
This is a system that Michael Kelly brought with him from The New Yorker.
A three-day torture test.
If your article's good, the process will only make it better.
If your article's shaky, you're in for a long week.
A story comes in, and it goes to a senior editor.
He, or she, edits it on computer, then calls in the writer, who makes revisions.
Then the piece goes to a second editor, and the writer revises it again.
Then it goes through a fact-check, where every fact in the piece-- every date, every title, every place or assertion-- is checked and verified.
Then the piece goes to a copy editor, where it is scrutinized once again.
Then it goes to lawyers, who apply their own burdens of proof.
Marty looks at it too. He's very concerned with any kind of comment the magazine is making.
Then Production takes it, and lays it out into column inches and type.
Then it goes back on paper, then back to the writer, back to the copy editor, back to editor number one, and editor number two, back to the fact-checker, back to the writer, and back to production again.
Throughout, those lawyers are reading and re-reading, looking for red flags, anything that feels uncorroborated.
Once they're satisfied, the pages are reprinted and it all happens again.
Every editor, the fact-checkers... They all go through it one last time.
Now, most of you will start out as interns somewhere.
And interns do a lot of fact-checking, so pay close attention.
There's a hole in the fact-checking system.
A big one.
The facts in most pieces can be checked against some type of source material.
If an article's on, say, ethanol subsidies, you could check for discrepancies against the Congressional Record, trade publications, LexisNexis, and footage from C-SPAN.
But on other pieces, the only source material available are the notes provided by the reporter himself.
This doesn't look like a real business card to me.
Yeah, I know. That's the kind of clown this guy is.
He won't even pay to have real cards made.
My office at 9:00, okay? Yeah.
A few other people we can't seem to locate--
Julie Farthwork, Frank Juliet and lan Restil's agent, Joe Hiert.
We called the numbers you gave us, got voicemails for all three.
And the e-mails were sent back "No address" or "Account closed."
Really? 'Cause I've e-mailed them about a million times each.
Hiert's online all day long.
Did you call these people and get them directly?
No, I always left messages and spoke to them when they called me back.
And the references in the article to Nevada law enforcement officials.
Was Jim Ghort the only one you spoke to?
Yes. Do you have a number for him?
Yeah, definitely. - By the way, what was your basis for writing that Jukt was a big-time software company?
I didn't. That was added by the copy desk, or during editorial.
Was the hackers' conference where you met the Jukt executives...?
That part of the article is misleading.
I was never in the Restils' home at all.
You weren't in Restil's home, with the Jukt executives?
No, I didn't mean to imply that I had been.
Sorry about that. Did the fax come through okay?
Yes, it did.
I think the address must've gotten garbled. We can't find the site.
You want to read it back to me? Sure.
You gave us "members.aol.juktn.html."
Wait. Was that an "M"? I'm sorry?
After Jukt, was that an "M," as in "Micronics"?
No, it was an "N", as in "Not working."
Try "M." Okay.
Sorry about that, I was rushing.
But I do find myself wondering, Stephen-- why would a major software company put their website where only AOL members can access it, as opposed to the entire Web?
I have no idea.
I don't have a website so I don't really know that much about them.
I would trust you guys to know better than me.
Okay. Looks like... we have the Jukt website up now.
I have to say, Stephen... this looks very suspicious to me.
Quite frankly, it doesn't look like a real website.
It looks like a site that was... created to fool someone.
I don't know much about computers. Could somebody do that?
Of course. Very easily.
So easily, in fact, it's incredible.
Do you still want that number for Jim Ghort? I just found it in my notes.
All right. 605, 84--
Wait. - Sorry?
"Six-zero-five," that's not Nevada.
I guess I got him mixed up with another source.
Sorry about that one. Oh, you know what it was?
Jim Ghort was the guy who told me about the law enforcement officials.
I don't know what I was thinking. I'm going to have to get you--
Give him the number.
This guy is toast.
All right, Stephen, in light of all this, how confident are you in this story of yours?
Are we off the record?
If you like.
Well, off the record... some of the things that you've brought up-- the website... the idea that I was always speaking to these people through voicemail...
that is, that they were always calling me-- it didn't seem strange before, but clearly, there are some problems with the story. You've pointed them out.
One portion of it was structured in a way that...
I just... well... in light of all this...
I just I'm increasingly beginning to believe that I've been duped.
And so we hang up, after he's basically let these guys interrogate me for an hour.
And I go, "Chuck, wh-what happened?
"I mean, why didn't you back me up?"
He goes, "I'm sorry, Steve, I've got to protect the magazine.
"I mean, I'm the editor." Typical.
He's being such an asshole. So I'm dead, pretty much.
Yes, this is Kambiz.
Can we have a talk here? Just editor to editor?
Sure. Go ahead.
Completely off the record, and really almost human being to human being?
You guys have discovered something that a troubled kid has done, but I still don't know how you plan to play it.
We're not in the business of "gotcha" journalism here.
I have no interest in embarrassing you or The New Republic.
I'm not worried about me or the magazine. That's fair game, But there's a kid here who basically, just plainly, screwed up. Big time.
His reporting was sloppy, we know that.
But we're trying to handle it internally at this point, just as you would.
Listen, we're going to run something along the lines of, "A trick was pulled, "and some very clever hackers managed to create an illusion."
I can't tell you what to print or not to print.
You guys are journalists.
But... he could be very hurt by what you guys publish. His career.
Chuck, I understand. I do.
I would hope if I made the mistakes he made, people would be generous with me.
But... this concerns the very field we cover.
We have to run it.
And when we do, we're going to need a comment from you.
So given everything that's happened, how strongly are you going to stand behind the story?
I'm looking into it.
It's really not that big a deal. You got fooled by a source.
It happens. They'll print a retraction, and that'll be that.
Steve, it's not like it's going to hurt your career.
Of course, if you weren't so distracted by your classes, maybe this never would've happened. I know, I gotta quit. You're right.
Can I speak to you for a minute, Steve?
Let's do it in private.
We need to take a drive to Bethesda.
What for? I want to meet Joe Hiert.
I already told you-- nobody knows where he is.
Maybe if we go to the hotel where he met with Restil and Sims, someone will remember him, or have some clue...
There were hundreds of people there, okay?
These Forbes guys want to come down on you.
They are highly suspicious about some of the material in that article.
You know that. Yeah.
But they're going to go online with their piece tomorrow.
Steve? Steve. Yeah?
If we can find Hiert, I can back them off for a day or two, okay?
Okay. I'll get my notes. Okay.
Let's go. All right.
We were at this table.
Restil sat here, his mother was on his left, Hiert... Sorry, his mother was on his right.
Hiert sat there, but Restil wanted him closer, so he slid his chair over.
Sims sat here. He had a lawyer next to him.
I forget the guy's name, it's in my notes.
Somebody was smoking at this table, so Restil's mother insisted that we move to one farther away.
The hacker conference was near here, right?
Yeah, the building next door.
I don't remember from the article. How many people were at this thing?
It looked like a hundred, might have been two. It's in my notes.
Two hundred people? Here?
Yeah, they moved in and out. I mean, most of them were kids.
That doesn't seem credible to me.
All I know is I was here.
All of us were right here.
Excuse me, sir, can I help you? Yes, you can.
We're looking into a conference held here a couple of Sundays ago.
Computer hackers. Do you remember anything like that?
Are you sure you're in the right building, sir?
Yes, we're sure. Why is that?
Building's closed on Sunday.
All I know is, I was here.
The conference was right here.
That's why the Restils only stayed a few minutes, okay?
Because it was such a dumb place to squeeze into.
So they went to a restaurant for dinner, with some of lan's hacker friends.
How many? Huh?
People at the dinner. How many?
About ten, I think, including me. lan even put on a jacket.
Hiert was there too? Yeah. ls it near here? Yeah, it's across the street.
Good, let's cross the street.
You know, I really don't like the way you're treating me, Chuck.
It's like you won't even talk to me.
This is the place? Yes.
I didn't do anything wrong, okay? I didn't do anything wrong.
You saw my notes, everything was in there.
I got tricked. I got fooled, I'm sorry. What are you being so mad for?
It was ten people? Yes.
For dinner? Yes.
They're closed at 3:00 on Sundays.
Yeah, I know. I know, they almost didn't let us in. Okay?
But it was a couple of minutes before 3:00, and lan looked like he was about ready to cry, and so they said okay.
But for dinner? Go in and ask them yourself, Chuck.
See if they would serve a party that came in at 2:58 and the answer would be yes, because that's when we got here.
The Forbes guys are gonna have all this too, and dig through the records at that office building.
They have surveillance cameras and they're gonna check them.
I didn't do anything wrong, Chuck!
I really wish you'd stop saying that!
Come on, anyone can make a mistake.
You know, this is not right, Chuck!
Okay? I feel really attacked.
And you're my editor, you're supposed to support me.
And you're taking their word against mine?
You're supposed to support me!
"Criticism of the President's program has been--"
Leave it off.
I'm sorry I yelled at you back there.
Pull the goddamn car over. Yeah.
There's been so much pressure.
Chuck, I didn't mean to get anybody in trouble.
You weren't at the conference?
You know, I had a description of it from so many sources, I thought I had it solid. Okay?
And I wanted the piece to have an eyewitness feel to it, for color... So I said I'd been there myself.
And everything we just told the Forbes guys--?
I'm so sorry, Chuck.
I just panicked.
If you want me to say that I made it up...
I will. If that'll help you, I'll say it.
I just want you to tell me the truth, Steve.
Can you do that?
There might be facets of this that you're not considering.
Why are you defending him? Nobody's defending him, Chuck.
Of course you're defending him. He's a kid.
He doctored his notes, Lew. Just consider that for a second.
You know? He sat down, and he hand-wrote a bunch of phony quotes and handed them in as source material for the fact-check.
Doesn't that offend you? Of course it does.
He also lied to his editor. That's supposed to offend you too.
He's a confused, distraught kid, obviously, Chuck.
So suspend him for a couple of months, but let's not bury him.
There are also political considerations to take into account here-- the rest of the staff, the way they feel about him.
I already know all that. What I'm saying is, if you fire him, some of these people will leave.
I don't know if we'd still have a magazine at the end of the day.
Hey, Caitlin. Not now, David.
How's he doing? Well, he's a wreck, of course.
I want him in here, Caitlin. He's too scared to come in here.
He thinks you want to destroy him. He knows what he did was horrible.
He knows how badly he messed up.
The part he's most upset about is lying to you, Chuck.
Because he knows you took it as a sign of disrespect instead of a panic move, which is what it was.
Think about the workload he's been carrying--all this and classes.
He hasn't slept more than two hours in nine months.
So he got a little sloppy and he lied to cover his tracks.
He's sick about it. Caitlin...
The building he described, it doesn't even exist.
He just made it up.
Obviously he needs some help.
He needs help. Just get him in here.
You can't fire him.
I don't think he'll survive.
You don't understand, we're all he has.
You can't fire him, Chuck.
Would you guys excuse us for a minute?
...so all the men, watered-down stock, and you know, within-- Steve!
What are you doing here?
I'm so dead.
I mean, I'm over.
Nobody's ever going to hire me again, are they?
I was so sloppy, trusting my sources like that.
And then lying about it.
And to Chuck, of all people...
I mean, the one guy who's hated me all along.
I'm sure that none of this is personal.
Chuck keeps a list in his head-- everybody who's a "Michael Kelly" person.
A couple of times, I said some things I shouldn't have said... about you.
So now I'm on it.
That's why he's so set on killing me now.
Well, I have to tell you, Steve, he's within his rights.
The things you did were fireable offenses.
I know, I'm not saying that they weren't.
I did some terrible, terrible things.
But believe me, Michael, Chuck doesn't care about any of it.
It's my loyalty to you that he's punishing me for.
I'm such an idiot.
Now who's going to hire me?
Steve, I have to ask you something.
Did you ever "cook" a piece when I was your boss?
Did you ever lie to me?
The "Young Conservatives" piece, the mini-bottles?
Was that true?
Hello. Chuck, it's David Bach.
I'm really sorry to bother you at night, but it seemed important.
It's fine. ls there a problem?
Well, I don't know.
I just got off the phone with Stephen.
He sounds horrible.
Did you suspend him, Chuck?
David, what is the problem?
He asked me if I would drive him out to Dulles later tonight.
He said he wasn't sure he'd be safe driving by himself.
I just thought I should draw your attention to that.
Did he say where he was going?
Yeah, he said he'd be staying with his family for a while.
That could only be one of two places.
His parents live in Highland Park, right?
Yeah. Or his brother, out in Palo Alto.
I'm sorry? His brother, at Stanford.
You had your brother pose as "George Sims."
The phony recording from Jukt Micronics?
It's a Palo Alto number.
Your brother is a student at Stanford. You had him pose as Sims.
No, Sims is a real guy... Steve, Steve...
I've talked to him a million times. My brother and I aren't speaking...
Stop it. You faked Sims, you faked a website...
You faked all those voicemails... You don't know, Chuck.
Restil, Hiert, Ghort-- - You got this totally backward.
It's all crap. I can trace it if you make me. I'll find it all billed to you.
I don't know what you're talking about. Those are all real people.
They are? Yeah.
Look at me.
And say that again.
Those are all real people.
I want you out of here.
I want you out of here, and you can't take anything with you.
There are some files, okay? I have to put them on a disk.
No. No, they're mine. Personal stuff!
I don't care.
I know you don't.
Can I at least shut down my computer? Don't touch it!
I'm in the middle of a file, Chuck! Back away from the desk!
Goddamn it! Leave it or I will call Security!
Jesus Christ. - Okay?
Can I take my Rolodex?
Can I take my law books?
But I'm gonna need to have your security key.
I'm not a criminal, Chuck.
I'm not a criminal. Oh, I heard you.
I said I was sorry.
But you have to go.
"Bond traders, as a rule, "do not have much time to loaf around.
"And the Wall Street investment house, RVL, "takes its work ethic to a particularly..."
"One trader is now testing a hand-held urinal
"normally used by cops on stakeouts..."
"A few days after Mike Tyson was disqualified
"for biting Evander Holyfield, "I offered half a dozen talk shows my services as a biting expert.
"I'm someone who knows..."
"The mini-bar is open, and empty little bottles of booze
"are scattered on the carpet."
"It was the monthly gathering
"of The Commission to Restore the Presidency to Greatness."
"Patriotic prophets will have a hard time
"holding back this merchandising bonanza..."
- Thanks, George, sorry for the trouble. - No problem, Steve.
The... the thing with George Sims?
The voice... the voice that you heard on the telephone, that was my brother. I'm sorry.
There really is a George Sims.
I... I've spoken to him a million times.
He just stopped talking to me.
You know, because of the article.
He was so mad about it. I didn't know what to do.
And the guys from Forbes were putting so much pressure on me.
You know? And you were so mad!
I just thought that if I could get everybody off my back, okay?
For just a day.
Just a day would give me enough time to... go and find him.
You can understand that, can't you?
You're fired, Steve.
You're fired. You've lost your job.
But you can't...
Chuck... will you please take me to the airport?
You don't have to talk to me if you don't want to.
But I can't be by myself right now.
I'm afraid of what I'm going to do.
And you know, I... I can't get there by myself.
I'm not going anywhere with you.
Now, if you feel like you're a danger to yourself, you can sit down for a few minutes until you feel calm enough to go.
But I am not going anywhere with you.
But... I'm afraid that I'm...
I'm going to do something, okay?
Did you hear what I said?
It's a hell of a story.
Stop pitching, Steve. It's over.
"Spring Breakdown," "The Jungle."
"A Fine Mess," "After the Fall,"
"Peddling Poppy," "Cheap Suits,"
"Kicked Out," "No Free Launch,"
"Ratted Out," "State of Nature,"
"Clutch Situation," "All Wet," "Plotters,"
"Praised Be Greenspan," "Monica Sells,"
What the hell did you do to Steve?!
He called me from his car, hysterical. I asked him what was wrong, he said, "Ask Chuck." I fired him, okay?!
Not suspended, fired.
Because this wasn't an isolated incident, Caitlin.
He cooked a dozen of them, maybe more.
We'll have to go through them, you and I. All of them.
No, the only one was "Hack Heaven." He told me that himself!
If he were a stranger to you, if he was a guy you were doing a piece about, pretend that guy told you he'd only done it once.
Would you take his word for it?
Of course not. You'd dig, and you'd bury him!
And you'd be offended if anybody told you not to.
Everyone of those pieces was fact-checked. They...
So was "Hack Heaven"!
You're a good reporter.
You've always been a smart, thorough reporter. Why can't you be one now?
Because what you're telling me is impossible, Chuck.
Read them again. This is bullshit!
Make sure you go all the way back, because half of them ran when Mike was still here.
That's what this is. Of course.
What are you going to do, Chuck, pick us off, one by one?
Everybody that was loyal to Mike, so you have a staff that belongs to you? ls that the kind of magazine you want to run?
When this thing blows, there isn't going to be a magazine anymore.
If you want to make this about Mike, make it about Mike.
I don't give a shit. You can resent me, you can hate me, but come Monday morning, we're all going to have to answer for what we let happen here.
We're all going to have an apology to make!
Jesus Christ! Don't you have any idea how much shit we're about to eat?
Every competitor we ever took a shot at, they're going to pounce.
And they should. Because we blew it, Caitlin.
He handed us fiction after fiction, and we printed them all as fact.
Just because... we found him entertaining.
Don't you know that?
ls everyone in the conference room? Um-hm.
You know what could've prevented all this, don't you?
How could you make up characters if everyone you wrote about had to be photographed?
You know, Stephen... if you wanted to, you could do these kids a giant favor.
You could write something boring one of these days.
Give them a little less to live up to.
I suppose I could.
We don't want a bunch of teenagers getting ulcers, do we?
... because I thought I was going to have to explain all this to you.
Well, what do you think of this guy?
Thank you, everybody.
Thanks. Thank you.
We've read through all the pieces now, the entire staff, and we've come up with a list of those whose facts and sources we couldn't verify independently.
I know you can't admit guilt of any kind, but I want you to confirm a few titles for me.
We're not prepared to confirm or deny anything...
What I'm going to do is this.
I'm going to read to you a list of suspicious titles, one by one.
If you raise an objection to a particular title, we'll fact-check it again in the hope of removing it from the list.
If you remain silent, we'll assume that piece is fabricated, either partially or entirely, and it will stay on. ls that clear to everyone?
"Hazardous to Your Mental Health."
That means it stays on the list of suspicious pieces.
We understand. Can we move along?
"Don't You Dare."
"State of Nature."
"Rock The Morons."
"After The Fall"...
You have to know who you're writing for, and you have to know what you're good at.
I record what people do.
I find out what moves them, what scares them, and I write that down.
That way they're the ones telling the story.
And you know what?
Those kinds of pieces can win Pulitzers too.