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press reaction

Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times

"'Frontline' deadpans a story of character assassination tonight on 'A Hidden Life.' ... This PBS series take an unusual and even mischievous approach to the grim tale, beginning in lock step with journalists who sought to portray Mr. West as a hypocrite and worse, starting with a sensationalistic May 2005 newspaper article. But then, after a subtle migration of perspective, 'A Hidden Life' ends in sync with Mr. West himself as the victim of a contemporary line of Kafkaesque persecution and in the end an almost wholly sympathetic figure.

"So this is how a life gets destroyed."


Ted Mahar, The Oregonian

"... The drama is detailed, and all major participants seen and heard in 'A Hidden Life,' produced by Rachel Dretzin and Barak Goodman as the tale unfolded through 2005.

"There is enough intrigue, deception and hypocrisy for a tale by Shakespeare, Dostoevski, Dashiell Hammett or Danielle Steel."


Florangela Davila, The Seattle Times

"... With no dearth of political scandals -- and constant debate over journalistic ethics -- "A Hidden Life" merits that moniker of 'must-see TV.' ...

"'Frontline' spotlights the journalistic decisions made to uncover and pursue the West story. It lets journalists explain their motives and actions. And what emerges is engrossing, leading viewers to question their own feelings about privacy vs. public interest and whether a newspaper can go too far. ...

"'Frontline' producer Rachel Dretzin initially envisioned the West story as a jumping-off point for a larger story about homosexuality. But the West story became 'more rich and interesting,' Dretzin said in an e-mail interview last week. So she decided West's story alone would be her tale. ...

"Think what you may of West -- that he was a hypocrite, a sexual predator, a victim of the powerful press. 'Frontline' gives you a lot to ponder."


Sam Allis, The Boston Globe

"'Frontline''s 'A Hidden Life,' ... will haunt you for the gray it finds beneath the black and white of life. ...

"In all, the Spokesman-Review wrote 189 articles about West's alleged pedophilia, his trolling a gay online chatroom for young men while mayor, and his purported use of office to encourage intimate relationships. ...

"Co-producers and -directors Rachel Dretzin and Barak Goodman burrow beneath these marquee story lines to great effect. We learn that Steven Smith, editor of the Spokesman-Review, and investigative reporter Bill Morlin decided to mount an online sting to out West. ...

"The paper hired an outside consultant to pose as a 17-year-old minor online. Here, 'Frontline' asks the right question: Doesn't this ruse border on entrapment?"


Melanie McFarland, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"... [T]his is not the usual 'Frontline' report shining light in dark corners and crevices left unnoticed in the hum of the daily news cycle. It contains no fresh, previously unreported revelations. Instead, what starts as a chronicle of how The Spokesman-Review built its story evolves, somewhat shakily, into a portrait of a miserable soul eaten up by self-loathing and bowel cancer. ...

"Tonight's 'Frontline' may be one of the saddest episodes you'll see this year."

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posted nov. 14, 2006

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