Nothing in Charles Lane’s 15 years of journalism, not the bitter blood of Latin America, nor war in Bosnia, nor the difficult early days of his editorship of the fractious New Republic, could compare with this surreal episode. On the second Friday in May in the lobby of the Hyatt hotel in the Maryland suburb of Bethesda, near Washington, nothing less than the most sustained fraud in the history of modern journalism was unraveling.
No one in Lane’s experience, no one, had affected him in the eerie manner of Stephen Glass, a 25-year-old associate editor at The New Republic and a white-hot rising star in Washington journalism.
It wasn’t just the relentlessness of the young reporter. Or the utter conviction with which Glass had presented work that Lane now feared was completely fabricated. It was the ingenuity of the con, the daring with which Glass had concocted his attention-getting creations, the subtle ease with which even now, as he attempted to clear himself, the strangely gifted kid created an impromptu illusion using makeshift details he had spied in the lobby just seconds earlier—a chair, a cocktail table, smoke from a cigarette.
It all seemed increasingly bizarre to Lane, who had brought Glass to the Hyatt, the supposed setting for one of those bogus stories, to see if the young man could explain it all away somehow.