August 11, 2008


Sometimes, There’s News in the Gutter (CLARK HOYT, 8/12/08, NY Times)

Before Edwards’s admission, The Times never made a serious effort to investigate the story, even as the Enquirer wrote one sensational report after another: a 2:40 a.m. ambush by the tabloid’s reporters at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles after Edwards spent hours in a room with Hunter and her baby; an allegation of $15,000 a month in “hush money;” a grainy “spy photo” of him with a baby. [...]

I do not think liberal bias had anything to do with it. But I think The Times — like The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, major networks and wire services — was far too squeamish about tackling the story. The Times did not want to regurgitate the Enquirer’s reporting without verifying it, which is responsible. But The Times did not try to verify it, beyond a few perfunctory efforts, which I think was wrong. Until the ABC report, only one mainstream news organization, McClatchy newspapers, seemed to be making headway with the story.

Not that it would have been easy. David Perel, the editor of the Enquirer, said, “This is a very hard story to prove, and I think that has frozen people in place.”

It is also the kind of story that The Times seems instinctively to recoil from, just as it ignored such stories in its own backyard as A-Rod and Madonna and Christie Brinkley’s ugly divorce, and played down the “love child” scandal involving New York City’s only Republican congressman, Vito Fossella, earlier this year. But Edwards was different. When the Enquirer first published its allegations, he was a major presidential candidate with a compelling personal story that included a wife of 30 years with incurable breast cancer.

As he told Katie Couric on “60 Minutes” early last year, “I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic, have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation ... to look at what kind of human beings each of us are.”

Still, Edwards-Hunter was “classically not a Times-like story,” said Craig Whitney, the standards editor.

Times editors said that when the first Enquirer story appeared and they could not verify it after fairly cursory inquiries, they left it alone.

The Times, "all the news that turns up even if we're cursory rather than serious"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2008 11:01 AM

"It is also the kind of story that The Times seems instinctively to recoil from"

The Times did not recoil from this story

"NYT June 23 2004
Illinois Senate Campaign Thrown Into Prurient Turmoil

Mr. Ryan, a Republican who is challenging Barack Obama, a Democratic state senator, for the seat held by Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald took his wife to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris in the late 1990s. The documents suggest that Mr. Ryan insisted that they have public sex..."

Posted by: h-man at August 11, 2008 11:52 AM

It is also the kind of story that The Times seems instinctively to recoil from.

Unless it is an unfounded 9-yr-old story against a Republican presidential candidate, then it's page 1.

Posted by: Gideon7 at August 11, 2008 11:52 AM

Mr. Hoyt, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

Posted by: Qiao Yang at August 11, 2008 12:28 PM

The Times has a Standards Editor?

Posted by: AC at August 11, 2008 12:29 PM

The New York Times-Democrat has standards? When did that happen?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 11, 2008 1:54 PM

Come on, the NYT does have two standards:

"Whatever hurts America, is fit to print."

"Whatever hurts Democrats, is not fit to print."

Posted by: sam at August 11, 2008 2:46 PM
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