Manson Web Extra: JOURNALISTIC JITTERS

Even experienced reporters were disconcerted by their dealings with Manson Family members

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STEVEN V. ROBERTS, Los Angeles bureau chief of The New York Times. He is 66 and a professor at George Washington University. At first I wasn’t freaked out by the Manson Family. A reporter is a reporter; I was there to try to figure them out. Besides, I’m not sure that when I first met the women I even knew about their actual involvement in the killings. Later it became much creepier. One of these women had a baby. I forget which one. My wife and I had a small child. I actually felt sorry for these women. I felt they had been badly used by Manson. At one point—and this was partly to win their confidence—I actually packed up a load of our baby’s used clothes and gave them to whichever woman it was who had the baby. After I did that, my wife got really upset. She felt that I had done something stupid. She thought this would somehow be a link, an encouragement that would cause them to come looking for us. We lived in a very remote place, the last house on Big Rock Drive in Malibu. There was nothing but open country behind us. In the best of circumstances, it was a little creepy. At night it was very dark out there, and I remember there was a period when some of the Family were still at large that my wife would freak out seeing headlights coming up our road.

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