Paula Broadwell Failed Her Readers

Biographers weigh in on Petraeus affair

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 13, 2012 11:31 AM CST
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(Newser) – Paula Broadwell's fellow biographers are predictably unhappy that the author "violated the bond of trust" between herself and her readers by having an affair with the subject of her book, David Petraeus, writes Laura Miller on Salon. Opinions from two biographers Miller spoke to:

  • James McGrath Morris: "She participated in something with her subject that reflects on his character and brings his judgment into question and she didn’t disclose it. It doesn’t even matter much what it was that she did. The real issue is the lack of disclosure of important information like that to the reader."

  • David Nasaw: "When Jayson Blair did his nonsense, it reflected badly on all journalists, and this will reflect on all biographers." One issue: Broadwell was not trained as a journalist. "Many of us come from careers in journalism and history, and for us the rules are clear," Nasaw says. "But they’re not clear for everyone."
  • But at the Guardian, Emma G. Keller notes that there's no clear "code of conduct for biographers"—and adds that writing a biography often involves "flattery, seduction, and attempts to establish intimacy" with your subject, which can lead to some tricky situations.

In this Jan. 15, 2012 photo, Paula Broadwell, author of the David Petraeus biography All In, poses for photos in Charlotte, NC.
In this Jan. 15, 2012 photo, Paula Broadwell, author of the David Petraeus biography "All In," poses for photos in Charlotte, NC.   (WBT)
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