Jane Mayer

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For the author who wrote with Clara Spiegel, see Clare Jaynes.
Jane Mayer
Jane mayer 2008.jpg
Mayer at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas
Born Jane Meredith Mayer
New York City, New York, U.S.[1]
Occupation Journalist and author
Alma mater Yale University (B.A., 1977)
Spouse William B. Hamilton (1992–present); 1 child

Jane Meredith Mayer[2] (born 1955)[3][4] is an American investigative journalist who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1995.[1] In recent years, she has written for that publication on money in politics, government prosecution of whistleblowers, and the United States Predator drone program.

Early life and education[edit]

Mayer was born in New York City.[1] Her mother, Meredith (née Nevins), is a painter, former president of the Manhattan Graphics Center, and a print-maker. Her father, William Mayer, is a composer.[5] Her paternal great-great-grandfather was Emanuel Lehman, one of the founders of Lehman Brothers, and her maternal grandparents were Mary Fleming (Richardson) and the historian Allan Nevins.[2] In several books about the Rockefeller family (including the authorized biography of John D. Rockefeller), Allan Nevins, held Rockefeller and similar figures up as heroes of American capitalism.

Mayer was graduated in 1973 from Fieldston. While in high school, she spent a year studying as an exchange student at the Bedales School in England. A 1977 graduate of Yale University, she was a campus stringer for Time magazine. She continued her studies at Oxford University.[1]


Mayer began her journalistic career in Vermont, writing for two small weekly papers, The Weathersfield Weekly and The Black River Tribune, before moving to the daily Rutland Herald. After moving to Washington, D.C. as a metropolitan reporter for the now-defunct Washington Star, she joined The Wall Street Journal in 1982. She worked for it for 12 years, during which time she was the first woman to be named the newspaper's White House correspondent, and subsequently, senior writer, and front page editor.[6]

She served as a war correspondent and foreign correspondent for the Journal, where she reported on the bombing of the American barracks in Beirut, the Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the last days of Communism in the former Soviet Union. She was nominated twice by the Journal for the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.[7] Mayer also contributes to the New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and the American Prospect.

She has co-authored two books: Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas (1994)[8] (co-authored with Jill Abramson), a study of the nomination and appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court; and Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984–1988 (1989; co-authored with Doyle McManus), an account of Ronald Reagan's second term in the White House. Strange Justice was adapted as a Showtime television movie of the same name, starring Delroy Lindo, Mandy Patinkin, and Regina Taylor.

Time magazine said of Strange Justice: "Its portrait of Thomas as an id suffering in the role of a Republican superego is more detailed and convincing than anything that has appeared so far."[9]

Strange Justice (1994) was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1994.[10] Both books were finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award.[11][12]

Of Landslide, New York Times Washington correspondent Steven V. Roberts said, "This is clearly a reporter's book, full of rich anecdote and telling detail.... I am impressed with the amount of inside information collected here."[13]

The Dark Side[edit]

Mayer's third nonfiction book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (2008), addresses the origins, legal justifications, and possible war crimes liability of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (commonly considered torture) on detainees and the subsequent deaths of detainees under such interrogation by the CIA and DOD. The book was a finalist for the National Book Awards.[14]

In its review of The Dark Side, The New York Times noted that the book is "the most vivid and comprehensive account we have so far of how a government founded on checks and balances and respect for individual rights could have been turned against those ideals."[15] The Times subsequently named The Dark Side one of its notable books of the year.[16]

Andrew J. Bacevich, reviewing the book in The Washington Post, wrote: "[Mayer's] achievement lies less in bringing new revelations to light than in weaving into a comprehensive narrative a story revealed elsewhere in bits and pieces."[17] Post reporter Joby Warrick reported that Mayer's book revealed that a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst warned the Bush administration that "up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake." The administration ignored the warning and insisted that all were enemy combatants.[18]

In a story appearing the same day in The New York Times, reporter Scott Shane revealed that Mayer's book disclosed that International Committee of the Red Cross officials had concluded in a secret report in 2007, that "the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes."[19]

Mayer said of her book: "I see myself more as a reporter than as an advocate."[20]

Civil liberties[edit]

Mayer covered the Obama administration's prosecution of whistleblowers with an article about former National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake. Despite Obama's campaign promises of transparency, Mayer wrote, his administration "has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness."[21] She won the Polk Award for the article, and the judges said her article helped expose "prosecutorial excess" and "helped lead to all major charges against Drake being dropped."[22]


In 2009, Mayer covered the Obama administration's use of drones. "The number of drone strikes has risen dramatically since Obama became President", she wrote. Her article described errors, ethical concerns, and potential unintended consequences in the increased use of drone strikes.[23]

Money in politics[edit]

For more than a decade, Mayer has written about money in politics, covering and criticizing both liberals and conservatives. In 1997, she wrote an article about "dubious Democratic Party fundraising tactics leading to the 1996 election." The article described how the Clinton campaign "marketed the prestige and glamour of the Presidency as never before."[24]

In 2004, she wrote an article on George Soros and other activist billionaires who sought "to use their fortunes to engineer the defeat of President George W. Bush in the 2004 election." The article described Soros's "extreme measures" and how his "outsized financial role in the election" has "stirred alarm".[25]

In 2010, Mayer published an article about the political activities of the Koch brothers, describing their "war against Obama" and funding of the Tea Party and nonprofit organizations that sought to block liberal policy proposals and defeat Democratic candidates.[26] The article was a finalist for the 2011 National Magazine Awards.[27]

In 2011, Mayer reported on retail sales millionaire Art Pope's dominant spending in North Carolina politics. It documented his extraordinarily successful efforts as a Koch brothers ally, who held seats on the boards of their Americans for Prosperity and Citizens for a Sound Economy organizations, to target both Democrats and moderate Republican state legislators and it predicted the redistricting-generated loss of Democratic congressional delegation seats.[28] Her article won a Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, and the judges called it "the kind of journalism that strengthens democracy and shows the value of a free press."[29] Mark Bauerlein, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, was critical of the piece, saying the article was "a tendentious, poorly-researched, and weakly argued bit of journalism" and that "Pope never gets a fair shake."[30] In response to criticism, Mayer supplemented her article with a blog entry pointing out that, despite Pope's claims that he was "not an heir", his "political career was launched" by more than $300,000 from his parents.[31]

In 2012, Mayer wrote an article about President Obama's efforts to raise money from liberal billionaires, and the decision of his campaign to flip-flop and encourage fundraising from super PACs.[32]

In 2016, during interviews regarding her new book, Dark Money, Mayer said that approximately six investigators she believed to have been hired by the industrialist Koch brothers had been trying to dig up dirt in order to smear her reputation, and that accusations of plagiarism had been leveled at her. She responded by publicly airing those tactics of intimidation.[33][34]


Mayer has appeared as a guest on the Charlie Rose Show,[35] as well as on the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS.[36] She was also a guest on the Bill Moyers Journal show on PBS in 2008,[37] and appeared as a guest on PBS Tavis Smiley show on August 7, 2008, to discuss her book The Dark Side, which had just made the New York Times bestseller list.[38] She appeared as a guest on the Comedy Central's Colbert Report on August 12, 2008.

On January 26, 2009, Mayer was interviewed at the Yale Law School Law and Media lecture series by Linda Greenhouse, Distinguished Journalist in Residence, and Emily Bazelon, Truman Capote Fellow in Creative Writing.[39] In October 2008, Mayer participated in a panel discussion of journalists at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, devoted to the media's coverage of the Iraq War.[40] That same month Mayer participated as a panelist in a discussion of the same subject at the Newseum in Washington, D.C..[41]

Although not a personal appearance by Mayer, the FOX show 24 (TV series) had a minor character in its seventh season named Blaine Mayer. The character was named after Jane Mayer, who wrote, ""Well, there's kind of a balancing sensation. The elevation to the U.S. Senate is a nice start to the year, but the sex change is a bit disappointing, since if I have to be male, I was hoping for a younger, more fit body, and a better head of hair. It does however fulfill one of my greatest fantasies, which is that I have long had subpoena envy." [42]

Mayer has appeared frequently on Free Speech TV's Democracy Now! program.[43][44][45][46][47][48] On February 17, 2016, she was interviewed by American University journalism professor Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, at a public discussion of her career and Dark Money that was broadcast on C-Span.[49]

Awards and honors[edit]

Mayer was awarded the 2008 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism for her investigative report leading to her book The Dark Side. The Award, presented annually by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is given to reporters for "distinguished cumulative accomplishments." In presenting the award, Nicholas Lemann, dean of the journalism school and one of the nine members of the award committee, noted that Mayer and her fellow winner, Andrew C. Revkin (science reporter for The New York Times) "set the gold standard for journalists, and we have benefited tremendously from their dedication and hard work."[50] She also has won the Ridenhour Book Prize[51] and the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism.[52]

Mayer was a finalist in the National Magazine Awards for 2007 for her nonfiction piece in The New Yorker entitled The Black Sites,[53] which was subsequently collected in The Best American Magazine Writing 2008, published by Columbia University Press, and edited by Jacob Weisberg.[54]

In 2008, Mayer was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in connection with her work on her third book, The Dark Side.[55][56] In 2009 Mayer was awarded the Hillman Prize and the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for The Dark Side.[57][58]

Mayer was awarded the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting in 2011 for her investigative reporting on the United States Department of Justice prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Andrews Drake. Mayer's article in The New Yorker[59] told the story of how Drake faced up to 35 years in federal prison for communicating non-classified information about an NSA surveillance program known as "Trailblazer" to Baltimore Sun reporter Siobahn Gorman, who wrote a prize-winning article about it.[60]

Drake originally was arrested in an investigation of who had been the source for the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 New York Times report on warrantless wiretapping,[61] although eventually, Thomas Tamm, not Drake or any other NSA employee was revealed to have been the source for that story.[62] After Mayer's story was published, all ten of the felony charges in Drake's original indictment were dropped,[63] and he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of violating rules regarding the retention of classified materials.[64]

In 2012, Mayer received the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting for her coverage of North Carolina state politics.

On November 27, 2016, The New Yorker features editor, Daniel Zalewski, assembled a group of Mayer's articles for publication as selections from its archive for The New Yorker classics publication released weekly as an online Sunday edition.[65] Following a brief introduction, each complete article was posted for Outsourcing Tourture (2005.02.14), The Black Sites (2007.08.13), Donald Trump's Ghostwriter Tells All (2016.07.25), The Secret Sharer (2011.05.23), Covert Operations (2010.08.30), The Predator War (2009.11.26), and Sting of Myself (2016.05.30).

Personal life[edit]

Mayer married William B. Hamilton, also a journalist, in 1992.[66] Hamilton is a former editor at the Washington Post[66] and now is a Washington-based editor for the New York Times.[67] Hamilton's father was a foreign correspondent and U.N. bureau chief for The Times, and his grandfather was the editor and publisher of The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle and a member of the Democratic National Committee.[2]



Essays and reporting[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Jane Mayer, Contributor, The New Yorker
  2. ^ a b c "WEDDINGS; Jane M. Mayer, William Hamilton". The New York Times. September 27, 1992. Retrieved February 20, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Jane Mayer." The Writers Directory. Detroit: St. James Press, 2011. Gale Biography In Context, June 10, 2011.
  4. ^ Jane Mayer profile at Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale (2011).
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Jane Mayer, Texas Book Festival website
  7. ^ Journalism Awards, The Journalism School, Columbia University
  8. ^ Strange Justice was excerpted in The Wall Street Journal, was the subject of an hour-long edition of ABC's Turning Point, and subsequent appearances on Ted Koppel's Nightline and Larry King Live.[2]
  9. ^ Lacayo, Richard (November 14, 1994). "The Unheard Witnesses". Time Magazine 
  10. ^ Barron, James (November 17, 1994). "Study of Death Wins a National Book Award". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists, pg. 2
  12. ^ "Yale Journalism Initiative to Offer Seminar with New York Times Managing Editor", Yale University Office of Public Affairs, October 24, 2006.
  13. ^ Roberts, Steven V. (October 9, 1988). "An Emptiness in the Oval Office". The New York Times 
  14. ^ National Book Foundation, 2008 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction
  15. ^ Jennifer, Schuessler (July 22, 2008). "A History of Abuse in the War on Terror". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2008", New York Times, November 26, 2008.
  17. ^ Andrew J. Bacevich, Collateral Damage, The Washington Post, July 10, 2008; accessed July 13, 2008.
  18. ^ Joby Warrick, "A Blind Eye to Guantanamo?", The Washington Post, July 11, 2008; accessed July 12, 2008.
  19. ^ Scott Shane, Book Cites Secret Red Cross Report of C.I.A. Torture of Qaeda Captives, New York Times (July 11, 2008).
  20. ^ "Writer Talks Torture", The Yale Daily News, January 27, 2009; accessed August 30, 2013.
  21. ^ Jane Mayer, "The Secret Sharer", "The New Yorker", May 23, 2011.
  22. ^ James Barron, "Posthumous Polk Award for Times Correspondent", The New York Times, February 19, 2012.
  23. ^ Jane Mayer, "The Predator War", "The New Yorker", October 26, 2009.
  24. ^ Jane Mayer."Inside the Money Machine", "The New Yorker", February 3, 1997.
  25. ^ Jane Mayer. "The Money Man", The New Yorker, October 18, 2004.
  26. ^ Jane Mayer, "Covert Operations", The New Yorker, August 30, 2010.
  27. ^ National Magazine Awards, [3]
  28. ^ Jane Mayer, "State for Sale", The New Yorker, October 10, 2011.
  29. ^ Toner Prize
  30. ^ Mark Bauerlein (October 9, 2011). "Jane Mayer's Poor Journalism". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved December 29, 2012. 
  31. ^ Jane Mayer (October 10, 2011). "Art Pope and Individualism". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 20, 2012. 
  32. ^ Jane Maye, Schmooze or Lose, New Yorker, August 27, 2012.
  33. ^ David, Corn (21 January 2016), "How the Kochtopus Went After a Reporter", Mother Jones (magazine), retrieved 25 January 2016 
  34. ^ Dwyer, Jim (26 January 2016). "What Happened to Jane Mayer When She Wrote About the Koch Brothers". New York Times. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  35. ^ Guests: Jane Mayer, Charlie Rose, charlierose.com
  36. ^ Jane Mayer, Guest, David Letterman show on YouTube
  37. ^ Jane Mayer on Torture, Bill Moyers Journal, July 25, 2008, pbs.org
  38. ^ Jane Mayer, Tavis Smiley Show
  39. ^ Law and Media, Yale Law School
  40. ^ "The Lessons of Our Failure", Nieman Watchdog, Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University
  41. ^ "The Harvard Medal Project for Journalistic Independence", I. F. Stone website
  42. ^ http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2009/01/jane-mayer-on-being-immortalized-by-the-pro-torture-quot-24-quot/9374/ [One of her friends at The Atlantic wrote a brief article on the character named after her in the "pro torture" show 24]
  43. ^ "Whitewater". 1996-04-30. 
  44. ^ "Geronimo Pratt". 1997-06-09. 
  45. ^ "Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America's 'Extraordinary Rendition'". 2005-02-17. 
  46. ^ "The Black Sites: A Rare Look Inside the C.I.A.'s Secret Interrogation Program". 2007-08-08. 
  47. ^ "New Yorker Correspondent Jane Mayer and British Attorney Philippe Sands on Bush Administration Torture and How Obama Should Address It". 2009-05-20. 
  48. ^ "Dark Money: Jane Mayer on How the Koch Bros. & Billionaire Allies Funded the Rise of the Far Right". 2016-01-20. 
  49. ^ Book Discussion - Dark Money, C-span, February 17, 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  50. ^ John Chancellor Awards for Excellence in Journalism, The Journalism School, Columbia University
  51. ^ "The Ridenhour Prizes - Fostering the spirit of courage and truth". April 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.  (see also video at this site)
  52. ^ "New Yorker Correspondent Jane Mayer and British Attorney Philippe Sands on Bush Administration Torture and How Obama Should Address It". Democracy Now!. May 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.  (see also video at this site)
  53. ^ Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 13 August 2007, "The Black Sites: A rare look inside the C.I.A.'s secret interrogation program"
  54. ^ The Best American Magazine Writing 2008, Columbia University Press
  55. ^ Random House, Jane Mayer, Author Spotlight, Random House, Inc.
  56. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Jane Mayer, 2008 General Nonfiction
  57. ^ "J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project winners". Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  58. ^ "The Hillman Prize Previous Honorees". The Sidney Hillman Foundation. 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  59. ^ Mayer, Jane (May 23, 2011). "The Secret Sharer". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  60. ^ Gorman, Siobhan (May 16, 2006). "NSA rejected system that sifted phone data legally - Dropping of privacy safeguards after 9/11, turf battles blamed". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  61. ^ Zetter, Kim (July 14, 2010). "NSA Executive Leaked After Official Reporting Process Failed Him". Wired Magazine. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  62. ^ James Risen; Eric Lichtblau (April 15, 2009). "Officials Say U.S. Wiretaps Exceeded Law". New York Times. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  63. ^ "United States v Thomas A Drake. Criminal Indictment of Thomas A Drake", filed April 14, 2010, US District Court, District of Maryland, Northern Division. This is a PDF of the criminal indictment itself, provided via jdsupra.com, in an upload from Justia.com' retrieved March 14, 2013
  64. ^ Gerstein, Josh (June 9, 2011). "Ex-NSA official takes plea deal". Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  65. ^ Jane Mayer’s Investigative Reporting, The New Yorker Sunday, The New Yorker, November 27, 2016
  66. ^ a b Jane M. Mayer, William Hamilton, The New York Times (September 27, 1992).
  67. ^ Jim Dwyer, What Happened to Jane Mayer When She Wrote About the Koch Brothers, New York Times (January 26, 2016).

External links[edit]