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Big Story Paperback – June 1, 1994

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


This isn't your usual focus on the events of Vietnam: rather, it's a refreshing examination of how the American press reported the Crisis of Tet in 1968, revealing the underlying politics influencing reporting styles and choices. This has been abridged and updated to appear in a new edition to reach new audiences, and is an excellent pick. -- Midwest Book Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 632 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press; Abridged edition (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891415319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891415312
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #947,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Brobeck on December 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Peter Braestup's book on the reporting of the Tet Offensive is a critically important book to read for those trying to understand the effect of reporters' all-too-human bias on what information the average citizen has available to him or her, as well as for those looking to find out not only what went wrong in Vietnam, but what the United States and its allies (including South Vietnam) did right - an aspect still all too overlooked.
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).
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Format: Paperback
This book was a real eye-opener for me. As a Vietnam veteran who served in Vietnam in 1967-68-69-70 and 71, I had always held fast to the premise that media coverage of Tet 68 sabotaged the possible successful conclusion of the Vietnam war in our favour. I had always believed that the american press had deliberately skewed their war coverage towards the negative side.

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.

John Reid
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Format: Paperback
A thorough critique of the press coverage of the Tet Offensive. Amazingly, the press almost universally got it wrong. The U.S. and the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) actually won the battle; the Viet Cong were decimated and never recovered as a fighting force (The regular North Vietnamese Army shouldered the major fighting from then on). It took the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) four years to build up enough strength for another major offensive (1972), which led to the Christmas bombings of Hanoi and the "peace accords."

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.
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Format: Paperback
"Big Story" is the recounting of how the "American press and television reported and interpreted the crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington".

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.
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