Most Read: Opinions

direct signup

Today’s Opinions poll

Would you use an app that tells you the partisan affiliation of products you're considering buying?

Review your answers and share
Erik Wemple
On Twitter E-mail |  On Twitter Follow |  On Facebook Fan |  RSS RSS Feed
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

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company