The Herald wasn’t unique: As the Pew Research Center recently reported, newsroom employment has plummeted 26 percent since 2008. Journalists in the middle of their careers — those 35 to 54 — have been hit the hardest, as Pew found last year.
At The Herald, said Brown, veteran reporters were pushed out because their salaries were too high. She was able to hang on, but she had to accept a 15 percent pay cut in 2009. “I consoled myself by remembering that I still had my waitressing chops from my early years in journalism in case I needed them,” she wrote.
While waiting to hear about the Post job, which she didn’t get, Brown started digging into Epstein. She’d spent four years covering prisons for The Herald, which led her to start reporting on sex trafficking. You couldn’t research sex trafficking in Florida without coming across the Epstein case. So when Trump nominated Acosta, Brown figured the Epstein deal he oversaw would be an issue in his confirmation hearings.
It wasn’t. “I was astonished that Epstein’s name barely came up, and that the questions Acosta was asked showed that the senators didn’t understand the gravity of what Acosta had done,” she wrote. She pitched her editor on the idea of tracking down some of Epstein’s victims and talking to them.
She would eventually identify around 80 women who said they had been abused by Epstein when they were girls, and she got four of them to speak on the record. It was a journalistically grueling process. Many of the women’s names were redacted in legal documents, making it a challenge just to figure out who they were.
At first neither the women nor their lawyers responded to her phone calls. She tried knocking on doors, but got nowhere. Finally, she sent out nearly 60 letters. A week later one recipient, Michelle Licata — who’s referred to as Jane Doe 2 in the case files — called her.
Brown’s book is richer for including lots of reportorial impasses and rabbit holes; it shows what a painstaking and often maddening process investigative journalism is. People should understand, she said, “that journalism isn’t always about success. To be honest a lot of it is about failure.”