Alta Asks Live: Private Investigators—Fact and Fiction

Look into the lives of the people who are paid to look into ours.

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How accurate are the depictions of private investigators in the noir classics that made the job so famous? How has the profession changed over the years, and what role do ethics play in the job? Private investigator Tink Thompson and Alta contributor Phil Bronstein join Alta Asks Live for an intimate look into the lives of the people who are paid to look into ours.

Bronstein wrote about private investigator's for Alta.


About the guests

Josiah “Tink” Thompson has been a private investigator for 35 years. He specializes in criminal defense and has investigated cases all over the world, including as a defense investigator in numerous drug and conspiracy cases. Thompson has also worked on numerous capital murder cases, including as an investigator for Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh’s defense team. Thompson’s Six Seconds in Dallas: A Micro-Study of the Kennedy Assassination was released in 1967. He is also the author of 1988’s Gumshoe: Reflections in a Private Eye and Last Second in Dallas, which will be published in 2021.

Phil Bronstein’s latest feature for Alta profiles the last of San Francisco’s old-school private investigators. Bronstein was named executive chair of the board of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in April 2012 and is now in charge of overall operations. Previously, Bronstein was editor-at-large and director of content development for Hearst Newspapers. Before that, he was executive vice president and editor-at-large of the San Francisco Chronicle, after serving as the newspaper’s editor from 2000 to 2008. Bronstein was editor of the San Francisco Examiner, which merged with the Chronicle in 2000, from 1991 to 2000. He started at the Examiner as a reporter in 1980, where he specialized in investigative projects and was a foreign correspondent for eight years. He was a 1986 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his work in the Philippines. He is the former chairman of the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ International Committee and is currently on the advisory board of Litquake, the annual San Francisco literary festival.

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