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New Republic Attacks NYT’s Integrity – Yes!

From those upholders of journalistic standards at The New Republic:

The Long Run-Up

by Gabriel Sherman

Behind the Bombshell in ‘The New York Times.’
Post Date Thursday, February 21, 2008

Last night, around dinner time, The New York Times posted on its web site a 3,000-word investigation detailing Senator John McCain’s connections to a telecommunications lobbyist named Vicki Iseman. The controversial piece, written by Washington bureau reporters Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn Thompson, Stephen Labaton, and David Kirkpatrick, and published in this morning’s paper, explores the possibility that the Republican presidential candidate may have had an affair with the 40-year-old blond-haired lobbyist for the telecommunications industry while he chaired the Senate Commerce Committee in the late-1990s.

Beyond its revelations, however, what’s most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all: the new information it reveals focuses on the private matters of the candidate, and relies entirely on the anecdotal evidence of McCain’s former staffers to justify the piece–both personal and anecdotal elements unusual in the Gray Lady. The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves–the piece contains a collection of decade-old stories of McCain and Iseman appearing at functions together and concerns voiced by McCain’s aides that the Senator shouldn’t be seen in public with Iseman – and departs from the Times usual authoritative voice. At one point, the piece suggestively states: “In 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, ‘Why is she always around?'” In the absence of concrete, printable proof that McCain and Iseman were an item, the piece delicately steps around purported romance and instead reports on the debate within the McCain campaign about the alleged affair.

What happened? The publication of the article capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn’t. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable…

This is a long winded and somewhat inside baseball (that is, boring) exegesis on the goings on behind this non-story.

Still, it’s hard to resist an opportunity to watch one set of journalistic frauds attacking another.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, February 21st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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