What happens next? It was ok that George Orwell and A. J. Liebling and David Sedaris made stuff up because they’re such good writers. And journalists make up quotes all the time. But who’s gonna want to read the next Alice Goffman book? I dunno. Weggy’s retired by now I guess, so he can just keep quiet and not bother anyone. But it’s not quite clear to me what Goffman is qualified to do, once she’s lost the trust of her audience. Work with public documents, perhaps? She could be the new I. F. Stone.
P.P.S. There was lots of discussion in the comments, so let me clarify some things. I’ve never met Alice Goffman or Paul Campos or any of the other people involved in this story, and I have no idea if Goffman really had the conversations she wrote about in her book. To my reading, Campos makes a convincing case that it’s highly implausible that these things could’ve happened the way Goffman said, but I don’t really know.
Here’s the key point: Alice Goffman’s success comes from telling stories that are both surprising and plausible, at least on a casual reading (no, this is not a contradiction to my earlier statement, as Campos’s point is that yes these stories could be plausible in a general sense but not in their details), stories that are socially relevant and highly detailed, which are presented as (and may actually be) true, but which are not documented.
So Goffman’s success, and the reputation of her work, depend crucially on the trust of her audience. Once that trust is gone, I think it’s very hard to get it back. I think she’ll have to move into an arena in which she can document her work, or else move into some field such as advocacy in which documented truth is not required.
Did Goffman make things up, was she misled by her charming sources, did she perhaps make up some things but not others, did it all happen just exactly as she said despite the seeming implausibility of the details, is it all basically correct except for some relatively minor exaggerations which she is now to embarrassed to admit? All these are possible. But, whatever it is, the trust is gone. If you got no documentation, it’s not enough that your stories could be true.