The Memoir of an Inconvenient Journalist

The Inconvenient Journalist is a tale by a highly respected foreign correspondent in Moscow with The Washington Post that goes far beyond the usual journalistic memoir that focuses mostly on the media outlets worked for, the stories covered and details of how those first drafts of history were brought alive.

But this also is a tale of the significance and necessity of tirelessly ensuring truth in journalism at a time when reporters unreasonably and unpardonably have come under fire for spewing “fake news.”

Dusko Doder goes deep and tells us openly and of his unwavering quest for respect and an unquenchable desire to earn the trust of his readers through ensuring his ability as a journalist to tell the truth as he gets to know it through obsessive shoe leather reporting. He fears making a mistake as a threat to his blossoming reputation. But it becomes obvious that his fluency in Russian as a Serb born in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, has aided him tremendously in the depth of his knowledge of the Soviet Union, in good part because he knew the language to the point of being able to curse as a way to make his sources comfortable with him. He had immigrated to the United States in 1956.

And he exposes for us his occasional lack of confidence about his work and the uncertainties surrounding a marriage to a wife who has little interest in or understanding of his enthusiasm for long hours of work he undertakes to make absolutely certain he’s missing nothing. Nor was
she interested in being in the Soviet Union during dramatic events. She eventually returned to Washington, D.C., with their young son before his tour of duty with Post ended.

This also is a heartwarming tale of falling in love with Louise Branson, an Englishwoman and fellow journalist who helped him write this and other books and with whom he connected after his wife left him. Both of them also had worked at United Press International, but not at the same place at the same time.

The newsy centerpiece of this memoir, which reads like a thriller and is difficult to put down, is how Doder broke the story of the death of Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov in 1984, surprising the world, despite analyses to the contrary by the CIA and other American intelligence agencies. But the CIA never forgets a slight to its standing in the intelligence community.

It retaliated by trying to destroy Doder’s reputation as a solid journalist by planting a story in Time magazine that he had been paid $1,000 to be an agent for the Soviet intelligence agency, the KGB. The angst that created for him, by the CIA plot turning his focus on truthful reporting upside down, is a story in itself. There’s a good reason Doder’s sojourn as a journalist was inconvenient for some of those in power.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.