CNN's Jake Tapper gives insight behind his bestselling book
Jake Tapper says he became a journalist to write the stories that he wanted to read, but other people were not writing. The new CNN Chief Washington Correspondent's latest example of that motivation is in his book, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor," which details the tragic yet inspirational story of an attack Combat Outpost Keating in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border.
Tapper spoke about his book and his journalism career in the Nelly Goletti Theatre on Monday night in front of an audience of over 200, including students, faculty, administration and members of the outside community. He spoke for the first half of his presentation, including a reading of the story told in the first couple pages of his book, then took several questions from the audience.
"If Americans wanted to hear stories about Afghanistan on television every day, the capitalist media system would give it to them," Tapper said, but the truth is, most Americans would rather click on a story about Beyonce lip-synching the national anthem ("which she did do," Tapper added).
On Oct. 3, 2009, Tapper told the audience, he was in a hospital holding his day-old son when he saw something on the news about eight American troops being killed at the army outpost. The news report said that the outpost was in a vulnerable position, but didn't answer the question of why it was there. Tapper, who was working for ABC at the time, decided to look into that question.
As Tapper investigated the story, he found several smaller stories about the people involved, from people involved in building the outpost in 2006 despite what seems to be the clear strategic disadvantage of it being in a valley surround by three mountains, to the soldiers who were killed or wounded in the 2009 attack from Taliban insurgents and their families. Tapper said he interviewed over 225 people for the book, which included two men who were on the Taliban side.
On Monday night, Tapper spoke of why he felt this was an important story to tell and report, as much of the war in Afghanistan has gone underreported.
"The one conclusion I came to was that our troops deserve better from you, from us, from the media," Tapper said. "We as a society are not giving them that."
Marist journalism professor Kevin Lerner said that the reason a story like the one Tapper tells went untold was that living through the 2000s in the United States, it was easy to forget that the war was even going on.
"If you visited the United States, it was hard to know we were in two wars," Lerner said. "For the most part, life here was the same."
Tapper discussed a disconnect he has observed between American civilians and American troops, which has developed, he said, because of a change in America's culture, such as the lack of a draft. The book attempts to bridge the gap, telling what he said are inspiring stories despite their tragic nature.
"[The soldiers and families] were the most selfless people that I have ever met," Tapper said.
Tapper came to Marist less than a week after he made his debut on CNN. He had previously worked at ABC since 2003, appearing on shows like This Week. His own show at CNN is currently in the works.
"Of the people who do what he does in Washington, he's the best," said Nate Giuletti, a student who attended the lecture.
Tapper stayed outside the theater for over a half an hour after the lecture, signing copies of his book and taking pictures with attendees. The Outpost debuted at No. 10 on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction list the week of Dec. 2, 2012.
"It was nice to have someone come at such an important part in his career," Lerner said. "He gave a good picture, recounting a chaotic event without having been a part of it. It was a good example to journalism students of going beyond as a reporter."
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