There is something particularly powerful about reading someone’s accounting of their dogged pursual of truth, of what is right, of what matters and we are treated to just that in Catch and Kill. In his second book Ronan Farrow reckons with the institutional powers and societal inequities that create the sort of stories he’s worked on reporting for the past few years at The New Yorker. Part memoir, part investigative report, Catch and Kill is an imminently fast read, jumping from one unbelievable if it weren’t so unfortunately believable development to another. In that way it reminded me of Bad Blood, but if that book was hyped up on five or six shots of espresso.
Ostensibly Catch and Kill is about breaking the Weinstein story and focuses on the powerful groups and individuals who fought to keep power in their hands and reporters and victims silenced in that pursuit. Farrow makes time in his book (clocking in at over 400 pages) to share various perspectives on the world of reporting and investigative journalism and how he is a small piece in a much larger puzzle – that he was quite literally both building on other’s work that had been killed before and racing other journalists to publication (I’ve already requested She Said from my library). And while it can rightfully be argued that possibly the real purpose of this book is a gloriously candid, righteously indignant, and deliciously petty outline of all the ways that specific individuals at NBC screwed Farrow over (go read Kstar’s review if you haven’t, it’s awesome) Farrow also works to make sure that while he is telling his story, it is the story of the victims that is what matters to him, and what should matter to us.
As the reader we spend over a year with Farrow as he lived and breathed this story. Part of what makes this a fascinating read is that there were a lot of people trying to do everything in their power to prevent him from telling this story (including hiring Black Cube to run surveillance on him and build a dossier to take to his bosses at NBC), and how that nearly prevented him from continuing to investigate and report, and that story deserves to be told as well. The latter parts of the book deal with the fallout of publishing at The New Yorker including Weinstein’s attempts to discredit his accusers, and NBC’s attempts to distance themselves from their failure to report the story, as well as the environment of harassment and fear in their own offices. Farrow, now well removed from his time there and perhaps a false sense of loyalty goes ahead and names the names, and is not afraid to paint unflattering pictures of the various people who feature in this story if it is deserved. The only truly weak part of the book was in the very final section where Farrow recounts the other stories that grew from this initial reporting (Les Moonves, Matt Lauer, The National Enquirer) as they felt at times only tangentially connected to the rest of the narrative. But, I won’t complain too much as those pages also contain his proposal to Jonathan in the draft he reviewed and my sentimental heart was won over.