Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Raleigh N&O’s 3/11 Spitzer Coverage

(This post is based on coverage in the N&O’s West print edition.)

Put in the kindest terms, today’s Raleigh News & Observer’s coverage of the scandal involving Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer is restrained and very incomplete.

The N&O runs the story at the bottom of its front-page under the headline:

Governor apologizes as reports link him to prostitutes (unable to link; story not posted at newsobserver.com)
Below the headline is the full text of Spitzer’s public statement yesterday, a picture of Spitzer reading the statement with his wife, Silda, standing beside him, four paragraphs of story text, and a Details Of Tryst – 4A prompt.

The story (Lisa Anderson, Chicago Tribune) then jumps to pg. 4A.

On 4A there’s some sidebar material including Spitzer bio info of the kind his office would release, a color photo from the Web site of the Emperor’s Club, which provided the prostitute, and a related story headlined:
In affidavit’s tale of tryst, seamy details mix with mundane

The N&O only once mentions Spitzer’s a Democrat; and never says he’s a liberal Democrat.

It says nothing about how Democrats are reacting to news that one of their leaders, who until yesterday was often spoken of as a future Democratic presidential nominee, is now involved in a major scandal.

The N&O doesn’t mention Spitzer is a Clinton superdelegate or discuss what that means in terms of the Clinton-Obama fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. For example, that if Spitzer resigns as governor, he'll lose his superdelegate status and his delegate slot won't be filled.

The N&O also fails to report what many news organizations, including the liberal Washington Post, have reported: asked for comment yesterday, all Sen. Clinton said was "I obviously send my best wishes to the governor and his family."

The N&O’s use of “tryst” in both headline and text was obviously meant to “soften” a story that’s really a major scandal involving a liberal Democrat with a history of abusing the public’s trust.

As the Wall Street Journal said this morning after citing some of Spitzer’s abuses when he served as NY Attorney General:
In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits.

At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.

The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits.

At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer's recklessness with the state's highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006
All true, but the N&O prefers to speak of Spitzer's “tryst.”

That from the newspaper which two years ago, with no credible evidence, nevertheless ran on its front-page, above the fold headlines:
Dancer Gives Details of Ordeal

A Night of Racial Slurs, Growing Fear, and Finally, Sexual Violence
The N&O left out entirely an extremely important part of the Spitzer story the NY Times, ABC and other news organizations began reporting last evening. It concerns why federal investigators first began looking at what Spitzer was doing. It had nothing to do with prostitution.

From the NYT:
…[According to law enforcement officials] Internal Revenue Service investigators conducting a routine examination of suspicious financial transactions reported to them by banks found several unusual movements of cash involving the governor of New York, several officials said.

[The governor] appeared to be trying to conceal the source, destination or purpose of the movement of thousands of dollars in cash, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The money ended up in the bank accounts of what appeared to be shell companies, corporations that essentially had no real business.

The transactions, officials said, suggested possible financial crimes — maybe bribery, political corruption, or something inappropriate involving campaign finance. Prostitution, they said, was the furthest thing from the minds of the investigators. …
Spitzer, besides getting caught hiring a prostitute(not a crime), may very well be the target of a federal criminal investigation growing out of the investigation into money transactions.

The N&O should have told readers that. I’m sure it would’ve were Spitzer a Republican.

Spitzer has many North Carolina connections. His wife Silda is a native of Concord, NC and a graduate of Meredith College, located just a few miles from the N&O’s Raleigh offices. The Spitzers have many friends in the Triangle area. Spitzer has spoken at both Duke and UNC – Chapel Hill. In April 2003, for example, Spitzer was the keynote speaker at a major conference at Duke concerning public policy and ethics.

The N&O’s only reference to any of the Spitzers’ NC connections is a one-liner in his bio sidebar telling readers Silda Spitzer is a Concord native and graduate of Meredith.

I could say more about today’s N&O coverage, but I don’t want this post to get too long.

Wrap-up comments:

When scandal involving Republicans and true centrist Democrats is involved, the N&O pushes hard. But when one of its own liberal Democrats is involved, it provides the kind of restrained and very incomplete coverage we saw today.

Much of what the N&O failed to report today is being heavily reported by thousands of news organization and bloggers. Their coverage will no doubt be the hard push the N&O needs to begin reporting the Spitzer scandal more fully and with less restraint.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Here are links to the complete texts of the N&O's "tryst" story, the WaPo's story quoting Sen. Clinton, the WSJ editorial, the NYT story, and Duke's announcement of Spitzer's April, 2003 speech.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for continuing your coverage of the N&O's coverage. Obviously, to the editors of this McClatchy newspaper, the innocent white lacrosse players just had to be guilty of a nonexistent rape, but liberal Democrat Spitzer committed only a "tryst."