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Big Story Paperback – June 1, 1994
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Top Customer Reviews
Though it is critical of some particular newspeople, as well as some politicians and military spokemen of the Vietnam era, the book is highly constructive in tone. Many of the lessons pointed out by Braestrup two decades ago have clearly been taken by the media, judging by the general improvement in war reporting during the current (as of fall, 2001) events in Afghanistan.
It is also a must read for those who question the abilities of democratic states to defend what they believe in.Braestrup lays bare the notions of the time that the allied forces - from ARVN to the U.S. Marines, were not effective, or that they were a corrupt force for undesirable ends.
An added bonus is that Braestrup is a gifted writer; his prose is readable and engaging, and his research is thorough and well documented. This book deserves to be brought out in a new edition (though I did buy mine through the Amazon's used book marketplace, and received excellent service there).
Braestrup's well documented study of press coverage of the Tet 68 offensive made me re-think all my knee jerk attitudes towards the press.
He presents meticulous summaries of coverage by the major american newspapers and television networks. While some individual papers and networks might have had an anti-war bias most tried to give balanced coverage.
When Braestrup gets into the logistical details of the in media coverage of the war, he really enlightens us. It's easy in hindsight to assume that todays wall to wall coverage of world news was the norm in Vietnam. Braestrup shows us in great detail the limitations in personnel and technology that constrained media coverage of the Vietnam war
If you read his analysis, compiled from his own in-country experience with an in depth analysis of most major news outlets reporting from Vietnam during the war, you as a reader are enlightened and forced to rethink your own pre-conceived notions about the subject.
I found this work one of the most illuminating works of modern history that I have even read.
It's interesting just from Braestrups first hand retelling of his own part in history as a practicing journaslist. His analysis of journalistic coverage of the Vietnam War is incredibly stimulating and educational.
I highly recommend this work to war correspondents, editors and journalism students interested in getting war coverage just right.
Written by a journalist, this book is critical but not ideological; the press is not "the bad guy" here. There is plenty of blame to go around. The military misrepresented the strength of the Viet Cong, for its own reasons, and the press went on to misrepresent the battle for its own reasons. The real heresy of this book is revealing how the ARVN and U.S. forces aquitted themselves exceedingly well on the battlefield. Was the war "winnable" on the ground? It certainly wasn't "winnable" politically, but credit should be given to the servicepeople on the ground (and in the air) who did in fact win the battle tactically and strategically.
The original edition was published by Westview Press in 1977; Yale University Press issued an abidged version in 1983 and 1986; another edition was published by Presidio Press in 1994.
I would dearly love to be able to say that author Peter Braestrup concurs with my long held conclusion that the American media were all left-wing, sympathetic to Communism and knowingly lied when they reported that the American and South Vietnamese military victory over the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces in the 1968 Tet offensive was actually a disaster.
In fact, while Braestrup does meticulously report what many might consider the misdeeds of the press in their reporting on Vietnam, he concludes that it was a mixture of factors that led to media's ultimate reportorial failure. He is, of course, right. General William Westmoreland was not a paragon a virtue when it came to dispensing the facts. The military staff assigned to liase with the media, Braestrup demonstrates, was essentially inadequate in many, many ways. Then there was the dynamic duo of Lyndon Baines Johnson and Robert McNamara who believed they were military and political geniuses and were neither.
Though published decades ago, Braestrup informs the present day. American media has become more stridently left-wing and more intent on misleading and misinforming the public while pursuing their own political and ideological goals.
Baestrup tracks the trajectory of the competitive press corps in Vietnam, particularly the television people who were coming into their ascendancy. For the TV people, images mattered, not facts. They needed material to engage eyeballs, not minds. It was logical that the images be violent even though they didn't tell the true story.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Institutional thinking has a large number of contenders confounded by competing institutions in a society that can blow money as fast as American forces in Vietnam were creating... Read morePublished on August 27, 2013 by as baby Babylons do SKITS
Although the right wing loves to refer to Braestrup's book as "evidence" that the media lost us the war in Vietnam, this argument was long-ago demolished by Daniel Hallin's careful... Read morePublished on August 6, 2012 by Kali Tal