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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 05:19 PM ET, 01/06/2012

An Obama book without the Obamas


President Obama---the guy who cannot tell his own story? (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images) (JEWEL SAMAD - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Here’s a provocative way to gin up publicity for your book: Broadcast the fact that you didn’t interview the subjects! From a Chicago Magazine story on the upcoming book of New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor on the first couple:

The Obamas didn’t talk to you for the book. So how did you get your information?
The story I wanted to write was never going to come from the Obamas’ lips. There’s so much they can’t say. I’d [previously] interviewed each of them on different topics, from religion to parenting to their marriage. I interviewed 33 White House staffers, most of them many times. I wouldn’t trade that for a quick interview with the president, because I’m not sure he’s at liberty to discuss the real questions I asked in this book. In a way, it goes to Barack Obama’s own predicament as president: He’s such a gifted storyteller. Yet can he really tell his own story anymore?

Well, ask him. I know of no federal gag order on the president.

Yet we should never judge a book without having touched its cover. This has got to be fun, considering that Kantor has accomplished one of the following feats: 1) Gathered only positive stuff from the 33 White House staffers and doesn’t feel compelled to sit down with the first couple to get their reaction; 2) gathered some edgy and negative stuff but still doesn’t feel compelled to sit down and discuss it with the first couple; or 3) knows the first couple so well that she can channel their thoughts and thus provide their likely responses to her reporting; after all, Kantor told Chicago: “They know exactly who I am. We have an intense relationship.”

Whatever the case, this approach probably wouldn’t fly at the New York Times.

And I’ve reached out to Kantor for a comment on the degree to which she’s presented her findings to the first couple and am awaiting a response.

By  |  05:19 PM ET, 01/06/2012

 
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