Halberstam vs Alsop

In the clip below, playwright David Auburn talks about why after he began researching the Vietnam War he honed in on Joseph Alsop, who was so influential at the time, yet little known today.  He kept seeing Alsop’s name as a footnote, and became intrigued. In his current Broadway show, “The Columnist,” Auburn uses journalist David Halberstam as the symbol of the young Turks, and Alsop represents the War-conservative Hawks. Watching the play, I couldn’t remember much about Alsop either, even though I did a tremendous amount of research about the Vietnam War for my upcoming novel, “The Five O’Clock Follies.”  And one of its many conflict-themes is the journalists who stayed in-country and spent a lot of time in the field, versus those with big names who showed up for a day or two, talked to a general or two, and reported back home that things were going fine. When I got home after seeing the play, I dragged out my well worn Halberstam tome, “The Powers That Be,” checked Alsop in the index and, indeed, saw that he was barely mentioned. Yet the reference had been underlined by me because Halberstam mentioned Alsop, along with Marguerite Higgens, as two celebrity reporters who dipped in and out of Vietnam. Of the two, he said, they “were there not so much to report on the war as to strengthen policy.”


More Gellhorn

Hard to say why Martha Gellhorn is the femme fatale of the moment: HBO has done a movie with Nicole Kidman that got less than warm reviews, but an off-Broadway company has done a simply wonderful revival of a play Gellhorn wrote with another war correspondent, Virginia Cowles. If you get a chance, see the Mint Theater’s production of “Love Goes to Press.” It’s an absolutely hilarious, cockeyed view of the press with all its warts as two well known female correspondents invade a press camp during World War II.