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Some Questions For Paula Broadwell PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Thursday, 02 February 2012 10:23

petraeus-bookBismarck native Paula Broadwell is making the rounds with a book she recently wrote about General David Patraeus. Last week we shared clips of her interview on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show." Afterwards, the Bismarck Tribune assigned a local high school student to do a sort of "hometown girls does good" story, and a high school student did an okay job covering Broadwell and her book. Not bad for a teenager, anyway. I bring it up primarily because I read a review of Broadwell's book yesterday that's pretty critical of Broadwell and her book. Here are the first and last paragraphs of Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone review of "All In":

The genius of David Petraeus has always been his masterful manipulation of the media. But after reading the new biography about him – All In: The Education of David Petraeus, by former Army officer Paula Broadwell – I’ve started to wonder if he’s losing his touch. The best spinsters never make their handiwork too obvious; they allow all parties to retain a semblance of dignity. Yet the Petraeus-approved All In is such blatant, unabashed propaganda, it’s as if the general has given up pretending there’s a difference between the press and his own public relations team. As Gen. John Galvin, an early mentor, explains to a young David in one of the book’s few revealing moments, "Through your mythology people create you…. You become part of the legend."All In is best understood as the latest – and least artful – contribution to the Petraeus legend.

[ ]

To judge this book as a book, though, misses the point. This is a biography written by a semi-official spokesperson. It does contain a few interesting bits that more rigorous journalists will be keen to follow up on, but it's chief interest is as a rough draft of the latest myth Petraeus is selling the American public: We won Iraq and we’re on the verge of a great victory in Afghanistan – and Petraeus is the main reason why. Are you buying it?

Rolling Stone (please read the whole review)

The review makes me kinda ponder the possibilities of interviewing Broadwell about the book and these sorts of criticisms. A good interviewer would probably ask her to respond to Michael Hastings' review in the Rolling Stone. I'd like to ask her questions like, "Do you feel like Hastings' assertions that you are acting, essentially, as a shill for Patraeus -- rewriting history -- are unfair?  If so, why?" and "Hastings seems to point out some good questions you arguably should have asked Patraeus. Do you acknowledge that you left some pretty big holes in your book in places where it seems obvious you should have filled them in? Or do you reject that claim?" and "Did Patraeus (or anybody close to him) have any editorial or writing input into the book or drafts of the book? If so, what input did they have?" 

Though I haven't yet read her book, I'd like to know what her answers would be to these questions. I want to know if I'd be reading a real attempt at a biography, or just spin.

I should note, too, that I'm finding it interesting watching the Bismarck Tribune "use" high school kids as "reporters" these days. Though the Tribune does identify the authors as "interns," it might be less sketchy if they would at least tell its readers these are high school kids and not, for example, college journalism students, grad students or graduates working for little or nothing to cut their teeth.  I get that the Tribune is doing everything it can to try to look like a newspaper without spending any money, but this is a little troubling.

Recent kid-written stories in the Tribune lately have included the Broadwell story on Monday of this week written by Century High School senior Madison Barney, and a story about artist Clyfford Still posted on the Tribune's website on Tuesday by CHS student Carrie Sandstrom, another CHS senior.  I think it's great that these kids are getting this kind of opportunity, and also think they're doing as well as could be expected form high school kids, but it doesn't seem like it's unreasonable for Tribune readers to expect to be told a little about the "interns" ages, qualifications, etc. Readers of legitimate newspapers deserve to know what's being fed to them as legitimate "news." Readers deserve a little transparency and/or "truth in advertising."

I should also point out that both these kid-written stories appeared -- in one form or another -- on NorthDecoder.com days or weeks before showing up in the Tribune. Reading the Bismarck Tribune continues to be a lot like reading NorthDecoder, but three weeks later after taking out the research and critical thinking parts. But, hey, if the Tribune needs some other ideas on stories for these kids out to cover, they should just give me a call. I'd be happy to help out. It would be nice if they gave appropriate credit, though. You know... Like real journalists are supposed to do.

Comments (1)add comment

big jake said:

I have huge reservations about the General. It appears as though Broadwell, while I can't question her sincerity, is a cheerleader.

The revolving door is just too convenient. Now the General has traded places with Panetta and is running the CIA. I am just not comfortable with the frequency that this stuff happens. It looks like a closed door system.

In fairness, a more informed conclusion can't be reached without reading the whole book and I have not done that.

This kind of stuff has been going on since the CIA was created by the Dulles Brothers over the objections of the earlier intelligence boys and most of what they were objecting to has come to pass.

We have far too much of this stuff going on in Washington.
February 03, 2012
Votes: +2

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