No More Creampuff Journalism: Readers React in Letters to the Editor

1 Feb

No More Creampuff Journalism

Sometime public commentary on the published writings of a journalist can get nasty, sometimes snarky, and sometimes downright witty.

Here, readers react with a series of letters to the editor to an interview I did with Khmer Rouge Prime Minister Khieu Samphan published in the Phnom Penh Post. It wasn’t pretty, but it was witty (mostly).

No More Creampuff Journalism

Phnom Penh Post

Letter to the Editor

No More Creampuff Journalism

Friday, 29 January 1993

I was spending some vacation time in Phnom Penh when I picked up your paper and read the “interview” with Khieu Samphan. What’s going on? This guy is a mass murderer and is single-handedly blocking a U.S. $2 billion international peace effort.

Yet your “reporter” Nate Thayer treats Samphan like he was some kind of elder statesman, asking him what he thinks of the current political situation.

Why didn’t he ask him what it feels like to kill 1,000,000 Cambodians? I’ve read PR handouts that hit harder than this piece of marshmallow.

Do your readers a favor-next time you interview the Khmer Rouge, send a real professional reporter-not a cream puff like this Thayer guy.

Bill Shuller, United States

I responded to that missive with the following:

Thayer responds:

“I’ve been called a puppet lackey, an intelligence operative, a right wing jerk, a communist sympathizer, and a hopeless drunk, but I have never been called a creampuff and I resent it.”

– The Post welcomes comments from our readers.

 This was followed by another letter the following issue on the “creampuff” topic:

Disgruntled Readers React to a Published Article in The Phnom Penh Post

Disgruntled Readers React to a Published Article in The Phnom Penh Post

Phnom Penh Post

Letter to the Editor

Sour Creampuffs

Friday, 12 February 1993

As a long-term resident of Cambodia who has been subjected to Mr. Thayer’s Errol Flynnish style of journalism for most of that time, I must take exception to the use of the word “creampuff.” It is extremely difficult to make a good creampuff in the tropics.

The term one should apply to this journalist is lightweight twerp.

Bill Lohan, Cambodia

Which was followed by more correspondence to the editor, this letter suspected of being the work of still unidentified mischievous journalistic colleagues:

Phnom Penh Post

Letter to the Editor

Gentle Journalism

Friday, 09 April 1993

I feeling so sorry for your reporter Kate Thayer called Gream Puff and Light Weight Werp in letters. So unfair! I read her interview with Mr. Khieu Samphan so interesting. Mr. Khieu Samphan of course is very bad man hates Vietnam people but reporter did no thing wrong. She just write down everything what she told very obedient and polite and not ask rude questions of important man her superior. Why call Gream Puff and Eroll Fling? My friends and I in the Ho Chi Minh Ladies Sewing Circle say, carry on Kate! Keep writing in your own gentle and lady like way!

Ho Chi Minh Ladies Sewing Circle

Still More letters to the editor followed:

Phnom Penh Post

Letter to the Editor

Khmer Rouge Chic

Friday, 26 February 1993

The Post editor was kind enough to take the heat off of poor Nate Thayer in answer to Phil Schuler’s accusation of ‘cream puff journalism’ (Feb. 3 Post 2/3), But I fail to see why inclusion of the questions would have mitigated the impression. Didn’t Thayer write the piece as published?

In addition to the list of names Thayer says he has been called, there was ‘Khmer Rouge-chic’ which I applied to some of his writing (see Indochina Issues 93, August 1991), and he attracts those names because of a persistence in treating the Khmer-Rouge as just ordinary guys with good intentions.

He asks for it again in his photo (Post, same issue, p.6) of a gentle Khmer Rouge soldier tenderly offering a smoke to a Vietnamese soldier, presumably a prisoner, when there is good information that the usual fate of captured Vietnamese was death.

2 Responses to “No More Creampuff Journalism: Readers React in Letters to the Editor”

  1. Professor VJ Duke February 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Creampuff is not so bad is it?


  2. Paul February 2, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Nate, these are all fascinating stories, but of late I can’t help but think your output could do with some contemporary issues beyond reminiscing on the past.

    I wish you luck in your book and fundraising campaign, but don’t forget to keep up contemporary investigations and writings. I am not sure what the demand is to read too much of a journalist’s personal reminiscences over reading a journalist doing journalism.


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