Age of Obama: A Reporter's Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in The Making of the President 2008. Mark Curtis. Ann Arbor, MI: Nimble Books, 2009. 228 pp. $20.51 pbk.
Mark Curtis is a seasoned radio and television anchor /reporter and blogger who spends more than 200 pages offering his impressions and memories of the 2008 presidential election. Curtis recounts what he saw on the campaign trail, the everyday Americans he interviewed, how his position as a freelancer assisted and hampered his reporting, and how so-called new media allowed him to report in ways he could not have in years past.
Curtis also was pursuing a doctorate in 2008, and he attempts to incorporate lessons from the classroom into his book It is because of Curtis' professional and academic background that this reviewer expected much more than this book delivered.
There are at least two shortcomings to Age of Obama that educators need to consider in determining whether to use it in their classrooms: (1) An unexpected number of factual and typographical errors, and (2) a lack of substantive analysis of Curtis' experiences on the campaign trail.
Given that Curtis has spent almost three decades in journalism, and that he is pursuing a terminal degree, the number of factual errors and the overall quality of the writing were disappointing. Curtis references Iowa (not Idaho) when he discusses "the Potato State [and] the home of Sun Valley." At one point, he indicates Iowa is 97% Caucasian; three pages later that figure is reduced to 95%. Later, the first name of boxer Muhammed Ali is misspelled. He also repeatedly states that Barack Obama delivered his Democratic National Convention address at Mile High Stadium. That facility was replaced earlier in this decade by a new stadium called Invesco Field at Mile High.
In addition, far too many typos mar this book. Curtis also seems infatuated with exclamation points. They are found in every chapter, and they are a distraction! This is not a breaking-news account with still-fresh emotions highlighted in the reporting. Rather, Curtis should have replaced his emotional reactions to the campaign trail with thoughtful and sober analysis.
It is in that critical area of analysis that Curtis' work also comes up short. The media were quick to point out in 2008 that former President Bill Clinton could be an asset to or a drain on his wife's presidential aspirations. Curtis' travels ensured that he covered events at which the former president was in attendance, but he fails to evaluate fully what role, if any, Mr. Clinton ultimately played in how the Democratic race turned out. This book was published early this year, meaning Curtis had time to offer important insights that would have enhanced its value. …