The publication of the Pentagon Papers, top secret documents leaked to a reporter, was contentious from the beginning. First, there was internal debate at The New York Times over whether or not to publish. Then publication led to one of the most important first amendment cases ever, as the government sought an injunction to keep The Times from continuing to publish more of the Pentagon Papers. As the chief legal counsel for The Times, James Goodale is able to share his first hand experience and his thoughts on the personalities involved in this momentous historical case.
Although Fighting for the Press was occasionally hard to follow or a little repetitive as the case moved through the appeals process, it was mostly just exciting. And if James Goodale occasionally seemed a little too self-congratulatory, I can’t blame him too much given the role he played in winning this famous first amendment victory. Overall, the story was very well written. Precise language was used to explain legal concepts so clearly that they were extremely exciting even to someone with my lack of prior knowledge.
From the beginning, I felt as though I’d been given a priceless opportunity to interview someone who’d lived through a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. In many cases, I like for a non-fiction author to be unbiased, but this was clearly a memoir as well as a history. As such, the author’s personal recollections and impressions of the people involved in the case added some depth and intrigue to what could otherwise have been a dry legal story. There were actually moments when, despite knowing the final outcome, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the details played out. This was an engaging read that I’d recommend to fans of history books and memoirs.This review first published on Doing Dewey.