Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview with Game Change Authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

A Conversation with "Game Change" authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

A few questions and answers from the authors of THE must-read book of 2010.



Q: Given the amount of coverage available during the 2008 election, why does the world need yet another campaign book?

A: The idea for the book arose in the spring of 2008 out of a pair of firm convictions. The first was that the election we had both been following intensely for more than a year was as riveting and historic a spectacle as modern politics had ever produced.

The second was that, despite wall-to-wall media coverage, much of the story behind the headlines had not been told. What was missing and might be of enduring value, we agreed, was an intimate portrait of the candidates and spouses who (in our judgment) stood a reasonable chance of occupying the White House: Barack and Michelle Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, John and Elizabeth Edwards, and John and Cindy McCain.

As you explain in the book, you conducted more than 300 interviews from more than 200 people that had a wide range of roles in the campaign. However, you did all of these interviews on “deep background,” which means you agreed not to identify the subjects as sources in any way. Why did you choose such a potentially controversial method of journalism?

We believed this was essential to eliciting the level of candor on which a book of this sort depends. To a very large extent, we were interviewing people with whom one or both of us had long-standing professional relationships, and thus a solid basis to judge both the quality of the information being provided and the veracity of the providers.

The book gives an extraordinary amount of details—specific conversations, email exchanges, etc. How did you verify this information using deep background sources?

With the help of the participants, we have reconstructed dialogue extensively—and with extreme care. Where dialogue is within quotation marks, it comes from the speaker, someone who was present and heard the remark, contemporaneous notes, or transcripts. Where dialogue is not in quotes, it is paraphrased, reflecting only a lack of certainty on the part of our sources about precise wording, not about the nature of the statements. Where specific thoughts, feelings, or states of mind are rendered in italics, they come from either the person identified or someone to whom she or he expressed those thoughts or feelings directly.

Want to see more? Watch the authors on "Charlie Rose."

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