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Crafted in Quincy, Alum Book Garners Praise

Amy R. Tao

Seth Mnookin ’94 discusses his new book “Hard News” with Adriana T. Luciano ’05 and Elizabeth G. McCarthy ’05 during a reception held for him at the Quincy Masters’ residence.

Last year, a resident scholar in Old Quincy’s E-entryway quietly toiled over a new book—and last night, amidst the splendor of the vaunted Quincy Master’s penthouse apartment, the writer and his one-time House celebrated a round of strong reviews.

Hard News: The Scandals at the New York Times and Their Meaning for the American Media, the first book by Seth Mnookin ’94, debuted last week and has since been lauded by publications such as the Washington Post.

Exposing the institutional story behind Blair’s plagiarism and complete fabrication of several front-page stories for the New York Times in 2003, Mnookin’s book concentrates the errors of Times’ executive editor Howell Raines and other management problems that allowed Blair’s inaccuracies to slip through.

Mnookin, a former Crimson executive, researched the book during his stay at Harvard as a 2004 Joan Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government. A former media writer for Newsweek who now lives in Manhattan, Mnookin said that living at Harvard made the writing process much easier for him, since he felt removed from the distractions of New York City.

He said his experience writing a book at Harvard was fun, much like a high-stakes version of his undergraduate thesis.

“I could not have written this without being here,” he said. “I got a lot of moral and actual support from people here.”

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Some of that support came from Harvard students, including four undergraduates who helped Mnookin research and check facts. Last night, several of those students threw him a party, hosted by Quincy House Masters Robert P. Kirshner ’70 and Jayne Loader. Mnookin came to the party after speaking and signing books at the Coop.

Quincy resident Irin Carmon ’05, also a former Crimson executive, was one of the undergraduate fact-checkers for the book. Carmon didn’t participate in the research process, but she helped write the bibliography, read some of the initial drafts and even baby-sat Mnookin’s cat.

“It was a priority of Seth’s that everything in the book, down to the last sentence, was accurate,” she said.

Carmon met Mnookin when she invited him to speak at The Crimson and discovered that she lived right above him and saw him in the Quincy dining hall often.

Shashank Bengali, a second-year student at the Kennedy School who is interested in journalism, helped Mnookin research the book and said that he benefited from seeing the book-writing process.

“There’s a lot of things that go into it that you wouldn’t think of,” he said.

Loader, who described Mnookin as a very lively presence in Quincy, said he made an effort to involve many students in his research and writing process.

Quincy House has hosted many such events in the past when other residents, including Kirshner, have published books. Last year, the House threw a party for former Quincy resident tutor Timothy P. McCarthy ’93 and current resident tutor John C. McMillian, when the duo published The Radical Reader.

“It’s great to use this palace for cultural events,” Kirshner said.

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