Page 40 - The Hunt - Summer 2019
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                  numbers to get information, Janny and five other reporters wrote vignettes about the victims. On Sept. 15, the first 60 stories were published in a section called “Among the Missing.” It was soon retitled “Portraits of Grief.” Over the next five months, the Times published nearly 2,000 vignettes written by 140 reporters, and “Portraits of Grief” became a public way to mourn for readers around the world.
For their coverage of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, Janny, her fellow reporters and their editors were awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. When
the vignettes were published in book form, Janny wrote the introduction. “It was a profound experience for me as a reporter and as a New Yorker,” she says. “Nothing I ever do in journalism will ever have that effect.”
Writing about the white mother of our nation’s first black president did come close. In March 2008, shortly after Sen. Barack Obama announced his run for president, Janny was assigned a series of biographical pieces about him. At the time, Obama was a little-known upstart trying to unseat Sen. Hilary Clinton as the Democratic Party candidate for president.
Obama’s Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was already
a bestselling book. Janny wanted to know about the other half of Obama’s parentage: his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995, just as
her son was launching his career in the Senate. “For years, he’d been describing his mother as a white woman from Kansas, and that served his political
narrative,” Janny says. “There was much more to her story.”
Janny researched Dunham’s unconventional life. A mother at age 17, she had two interracial marriages with two children, raising one who had the audacity to think he could be president of the United States. “That’s a woman I wanted to know more about,” says Janny.
The day after her story ran on the front page of the Times, Janny received
an offer to write a book about Dunham. “He wasn’t even the nominee yet—let alone the president—and I’m not sure the publisher thought he would be,” Janny says. “It was less about that and more about this being a great story.”
Over the next two years and three months, Janny conducted more than 200 interviews, traveling to Indonesia and Hawaii, combing through Dunham’s personal papers. She interviewed Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s Indonesian- American maternal half-sister, and other close friends and relatives. But Janny admits to being a bit hesitant to interview the man who had, in fact, become the president of the United States. The White House press office arranged
an interview, albeit on short notice. “They called and said, ‘Can you be here tomorrow? We’ll give you 20 minutes.’”
The next day, Janny was in the White House armed with 10 questions. She’d never been inside the Oval Office, interviewed a president or met Obama face-to-face. “I went down a hallway ... and there he was,” she recalls. “He said,
‘Hey, how are you?’ with a lot of warmth, like he was welcoming me into his home.”
Obama gave her 30 minutes, not 20. She asked all of her questions; he answered them. A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother was published in 2011, quickly becoming a bestseller.
Janny wasn’t fully prepared for what came next. Inside a locked chest in a storage closet at Ardrossan, Robert Montgomery Scott’s diaries awaited her. At 59 years old, she finally returned to tJhe estate—to tell her father’s story.
anny Scott arrives at Radnor Memorial Library for our interview dressed in olive-green slacks, another black sweater and the same black loafers. Journalists are notoriously difficult to interview, and Janny is no
exception. She always seems to be three questions ahead, and asks as many as she answers. Yet she’s warm, funny, forthright and generous with her time.
She begins where the book begins, with the 2005 death of her father and
his extravagant funeral. Janny was there, of course. She writes about it in the
book just as she writes about everything else—focusing on only the facts she could prove, either by interviewing family members or with scrapbook mementos, telegrams and other correspondence.
Those materials provided details of
life inside Ardrossan’s big house, from the time it was built by Janny’s great grandfather, Col. Robert Leaming Montgomery, in 1911. “The Colonel” insisted that the gin be Bellows, not Gordon’s. He employed 16 servants— cooks, maids, butlers, valets, chauffeurs, handymen, gardeners and security personnel—to work at Ardrossan. The estate had swimming pools, tennis courts, stables full of horses, a kennel for the beagles, and a dairy that housed a herd of 300 Ayrshire cows.
Hope Montgomery Scott, the Colonel’s daughter, comes to life in Janny’s book. The Hope of The Beneficiary is fun,
38 THE HUNT MAGAZINE sUMMEr 2019
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