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Behind the Scenes: How the board arrived at its editorial about Jaycee Dugard's memoir

Jaycee Dugard - A Stolen LifeA blog post Tuesday about Jaycee Dugard's forthcoming memoir gave Nicholas Goldberg, editor of the Los Angeles Times editorial pages, an idea for an editorial, which he sent off to other members of the editorial board. Here are excerpts from the exchange that ensued, which we're sharing to give you an idea of how the board operates. These discussions usually happen face to face when the board holds its meetings three times a week, but occasionally they're conducted by  email, as happened in this case.

Please note: This is just the starting point for an editorial -- the off-the-top thoughts that present the writer with angles to pursue and questions to answer. In other words, don't confuse this banter with the reporting editorial writers put into their pieces.

Nicholas Goldberg kicked off the conversation at 8:50 a.m.

What do people think the news item below? Anything to be said? Obviously, Jaycee Dugard can do anything she wants and we only wish her the best, etc etc, but there’s something sad and strange about a society that encourages a person who has been through such a traumatizing and personal nightmare to -- so quickly -- go public with every detail. For money? For fame? For catharsis? No matter what the reason is, it’s weird. No?

[News item in consideration: Jaycee Dugard's memoir, 'A Stolen Life,' will be published in July]

Michael McGough: 9:03 a.m.

Creepiest line:

she writes with such honesty and intimacy, that as I read her narrative, I felt like I was in the room with her.

I agree but it would be strange to seem to lecture her on deciding when to tell her story. I like your idea about the publisher and society pressing for this

Karin Klein: 9:26 a.m.

Maybe I'm just another sad, strange member of society, but I'm not bothered by this one. Have been by other "news fame" books, but not this. Of course, that's based on the assumption that she wasn't pushed into doing this, that she's doing it for reasons that work for her. But I wouldn't want to judge that otherwise, even though there were certainly agents hopping up and down urging her to strike while the iron is hot.

 While other girls were going to school, going off to college, making a mark on life, Jaycee was deprived of all that, and now has responsibility for children that she would not have chosen to have at the point she did. Her public persona has been that of victim, victim with more than an edge of salaciousness to the whole thing. This is a chance to emerge from that embarrassed privacy, to assert some self-control over a life that has had little to none, and perhaps to have fame based on the image of her as a strong survivor, and one who wrote a book.

This probably would have been a more successful venture--in terms of what valuable insight it would offer readers--had she waited to get more perspective on it. Having read the novel "Room," which is inspired by the Dugard case though quite different in many regards, I'd be interested to know what the transition is like for her children and her parents as well as for her. Maybe five years down the road,  she can offer a sequel.

Jon Healey: 9:25 a.m.

I’m not offended either, and I’m not sure we need to weigh in. It’s her life, her speech and her choice; those are three things she didn’t have while the Garridos held her captive.

McGough: 9:30 a.m.

There’s no way the marketing of this book won’t be sensationalistic, but that’s true of all books like this, no?

Goldberg: 9:32 a.m.

I’m interested in knowing what life is like for her too and what captivity was like [...] That’s why the book will be an instant bestseller. And she’ll make a lot of money. And I wouldn’t dream of criticizing her for doing so.

But I don’t think it’ll be good for her or that she’ll “assert self-control” over her life or emerge from embarrassed privacy. That’s Oprah talk. The fact is that our society thrives on these stories of tragedy and violation and she’s no doubt been under enormous pressure to tell the story and she (understandably) wants the millions that will come along with it. 

That’s why nothing  -- not even the most horrifying personal trauma of the sort that takes years to recover from in therapy and with one’s family – is kept secret anymore.

Jon says: “It’s her choice.” But I don’t really believe that. It’s the way our culture works these days and to me it’s unseemly. Again, I’m not blaming her for doing what people do in these situations; I’m just think the phenomenon is an interesting one and a sad one.

Of course we don’t need to weigh in -- it’s not terribly important -- but people would read about it.

If no one agrees with me, I’ll shut up.

Healey: 9:37 a.m.

Hmmm. Seems like the revelations she would really want to have kept secret -- that she was raped repeatedly [...] -- became public knowledge long ago. The book gives her the chance to be something more in the public’s mind than just a rape victim. That strikes me as a good thing, even if it smacks of armchair psychology.

Klein: 9:42 a.m.

Unless she forged this deal before they had a good idea that they'd get a big settlement from the state, I doubt it was money. $20 million is enough to see most of us [...] through life.


Society's prurient interests, and the push to gratify those interests for money, is unseemly. But I'd read this book. I'd want to know what captivity was like for her and her children, what the world looked like to them, with or without salacious details. And Oprah or not, I think there is tremendous interest for many people in writing a book, especially after they've been through a tough time. It's a chance to do something, to act in some way, and in a way that feels like it matters.

Dan Turner: 9:48 a.m.

It seems a little odd for a newspaper to bemoan public interest in the details of personal tragedies; isn’t that how we make a living?

Carla Hall: 9:49 a.m.

Why all the hand wringing? I think her book will be--or could be--fascinating. I'm dying to hear all the details. She has neither spoken nor appeared publicly, right?  We get to hear her story; she gets to make a ton of rightly deserved money. Maybe she gets some catharsis out of it too. Win-win.

Here's the final product based on the morning's discussion:

The Jaycee Dugard story

Her memoir, "A Stolen Life," may give readers insight -- but what will it do for her?


Jaycee Dugard: Brave young author, or victim once again?

Photo: Cover of "A Stolen Life." Credit: Nancy Seltzer & Associates Inc.


Comments () | Archives (12)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Mitchell Young

One of the most interesting posts I've read here, a view into the editorial sausage factory!


I read with interest the editorial exchange and well-concieved final editorial product. The exchange was cordial, thoughtful and insightful, which led to an interesting and valuable op-ed piece.

I can only hope that the process that took place to put together the final editorial results is a microcosm of the process and final therapeutic results Jaycee receives in her book-writing venture.


Aargh, I can't believe I missed my typo on "concieved."


It seems to me they're saying take the money and run. It's unfathomable what she endured. She'll make a lot of money. When most young girls were trying to figure out what to do with their life, Jaycee didn't have their concerns because her life had been savagely ripped from her. And even though money isn't everything--just look at how much she can rake in. That's my read on it.


This exchange is sickening. You guys need to just report the news and leave the guesswork out of it. Since you acknowledged the public knowledge, this is merely regurgitating it. Your opinion doesn't matter.

I don't trust the LATimes with the editing. If you take yourselves out of reporting the news, I'll get my info elsewhere. How does that help you?


Goldberg: 9:32 a.m.

"If no one agrees with me, I’ll shut up."

Great! Shut up. And go away. Disband your sanctimonious elitist propaganda board and stop your constant attempts at left-wing social engineering.


I really appreciate The Los Angeles Times printing this fascinating look into the minds of members of its editorial board. Dan Turner's comment is the most revealing and is the crux of the issue. Yes, exposing the details of personal tragedies is how newspapers make a living. Indeed, isn't this precisely why society is so screwed up--because jooornalists make a living out of exploiting others' personal tragedies, foibles and travails for profit?

Take Michael Jackson, for example. The media feasted on the soul and spirit of one of the world's most accomplished entertainers and prolific humanitarians for nearly two decades. But it wasn't the numerous accomplishments of Michael Jackson about which the press wrote constantly. Oh, no...we can't have that. Too decent. They failed to investigate the episodes of extortion of Michael Jackson but constantly blamed the victim of that extortion. Freak! Weird! Bizarre! Strange! The media nearly killed Michael Jackson; many believe they did, in fact, kill him indirectly. The media was complicit in enabling Evan Chandler, Janet Arvizo and Thomas Ssssneddon to exploit Jackson. Were it not for the ubiquitous media frenzy that was sure to occur through accusing him, the extortionists would have been unable to extort him. Enablers of extortion; that's what the media is.

I think if I was a jooornalist, I would commit ritual suicide rather than participate in the exploitation of human beings for profit. Jaycee has a right to tell her story if doing so will help her purge the vestiges of a life in captivity, but the media had better tread lightly as they report about it. We have had enough exploitation of high profile people for nothing more than ratings and page clicks. In fact, don't even flatter yourselves by calling yourselves journalists anymore. You're nothing but medialoid--mainstream media infected by tabloid mentality. At least Dan Turner sees things clearly.

Amy Alkon

I'm with Carla Hall on this:

"Why all the hand wringing? I think her book will be--or could be--fascinating. I'm dying to hear all the details. She has neither spoken nor appeared publicly, right? We get to hear her story; she gets to make a ton of rightly deserved money. Maybe she gets some catharsis out of it too. Win-win."


If this book were an exploitative piece of ghost written tabloid sensationalism, it would probably have been rushed to print in the few months after her rescue when this was still a hot story in the news cycle.

I suspect this is Jaycee in her own words and that, with that big settlement from the State of California to support her, she's not just doing it for the money. Consider that she's been pretty secretive (a spread in People and some brief videos) in the nearly two years since this was breaking news. That's hardly pandering.

A Hunt

Why is the editorial board of the LAT concerned about what book a private citizen and crime victim may write? It's not "The Jaycee Dugard Story", it's Ms. Dugard's own story to tell, for whatever reason she may have.

I find the speculation of the LAT to be offensive in the extreme, and wonder why Ms. Dugard should be singled out.

Deb Corbett

This is probably just a little more of the same above, but I'm not too proud to reiterate...ABSOLUTELY will read her book, although it does give one cause to wonder how long the road will be ahead for this young lady before she's able to be re-introduced into society. This HAS GOT to be a major milestone for her in wanting to share her life's tragedy with the rest of the world. No amount of money on the planet, I would hasten to add, can ever replace what Phillip and Nancy Guiddo took from her the day she was kidnapped. I applaud Jaycee Dugard for her courage and tenacity...all of us could stand to learn a thing or two from this young woman's strength!!!!


Writing the memoir may have been a valuable healing experience.

Perhaps the tale may... MAY be helpful if read before an abduction for an abductee to flee the abductor when/if an opportunity permits (anti-Stockholm Syndrome).

Extra wealth to assist in ensuring a life of comfort after a gut-wrenching experience.

Plus a whole bunch more reasons I haven't even thought of yet.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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