Tuesday, August 19, 2008

N&O's bogus claim re: Enquirer's Edwards story

Raleigh News & Observer executive editor John Drescher's two most recent columns (here and here) have offered excuses for what journalists and many N&O readers know was the N&O bungled coverage of the Edwards scandal, a major political story much of which played out on the N&O's doorstep.

As late as Aug. 3 the N&O's public editor Ted Vaden praised what he termed the N&O's "restraint" and "refusal" to chase "salacious details" such as Rielle Hunter's child's birth certificate. He quoted Drescher: "I don't view the National Enquirer as a credible source of news."

Then came Aug. 8, the day Edwards admitted on ABC's Nightline to an affair with Rielle Hunter and, as the National Enquirer reported July 22, their Beverly Hilton tryst the night of July 21.

Edwards' disclosures were soon followed by Drescher's disclosures the N&O's coverage had actually been "aggressive" but made difficult by Edwards' refusal to help the N&O.

Well, sure.

Now let's look at what the N&O was reporting the morning of Aug. 8.

In a page one story, “Tabloid photo offers no clarity,” which carried N&O reporter Lorenzo Perez’s byline, readers were told:

… Two weeks after it ran an anonymously sourced story asserting that its reporters caught Edwards visiting a former campaign worker and the baby he fathered with her, the Enquirer posted the photo on its Web site to bolster its reporting of the story. … (emphasis added)
The N&O was just plain wrong when it said the Enquirer's July 22 story was "anonymously sourced."

Two Enquirer reporters – Alan Butterfield and Alexander Hitchen – were named in the Enquirer story which included detailed accounts of what they saw and did at the Beverly Hilton the night of July 21/22. Afterward, the reporters swore out criminal complaints alleging hotel security had roughed them up.

By Aug. 8 Butterfield and Hitchen had been interviewed many times by news organizations. They stood by everything they’d said in their July 22 report.

Up to the time of the N&O's Aug. 8 "anonymously sourced" claim not John Edwards, Rielle Hunter, Bob McGovern, who the NE reported drove Hunter to the Beverly Hilton nor any hotel staff member had disputed anything Butterfield and Hitchen reported, unless you count Edwards’ “tabloid trash” remark July 23 in Houston.

The N&O claims to fact-check everything that appears in its news columns under its reporters' bylines.

If that's the case, how did the N&O blunder by declaring the Enquirer's story was “anonymously sourced ” more than two weeks after it was published and just hours before Edwards’ Nightline appearance?

Perez was supposed to get his story right in the first place.

The editor who assigned him to the story was supposed to fact-check it.

At the N&O copy, layout, and headline editors are responsible for fact-checking stories they work on.

When a story's being considered for the front page, the N&O's front page editor, Stever Merelman, or his designee editor gets involved.

Also, one or more of the N&O three senior editors and Drescher himself are almost always involved with selecting and fact-checking front page stories.

It's hard to understand how a reporter and a group of editors could report on Aug. 8 on the N&O's front page that the Enquirer's story was "anonymously sourced."

Wasn't anyone minding the newsroom?


Anonymous said...

The metanarrative, John. The metanarrative. Edwards is a "progressive" Democrat; thus, he couldn't possibly have done anything wrong.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

John, you always know how to take it to 'em!

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work, John. Many of us appreciate your tenacity and astute observations. And many of us know that the Charlotte Observer, not the N&O, was the newspaper that actually tried to report on the Edwards scandal.

Anonymous said...

Once again, John, your post shows a lack of understanding of how newsrooms operate.

Before you "report" why not spend some time on the scene. Have you ever been to the N&O newsroom? For that matter, any newsroom of a daily newspaper? And since on this blog words have different meanings than they do for regular people, by "Have you ever been" I mean: Have you ever spent an entire day & evening in the N&O newsroom to observe how the newspaper comes together, how each person performs his/her role, etc? My guess is you haven't.

And yet, you blather on about the process.

Anonymous said...

Don't look now, but that troll is back...

Anonymous said...

anon @ 9:19

You're making John look even better than he is.

Anonymous said...

I wonder who is the biggest phony . . . John Edwards the disgraced politician or the John Edwards guy who claims to contact the dead.

Well, even if that second John Edwards can really contact the dead, I doubt that he can contact John R. Edwards' political career. Some things are just TOO dead.

Anonymous said...

There is another NE story out on Edwards. It discusses how Rielle got an all expenses paid vacation to St. Croix jsut before the story "broke" in the MSM. She hung out at the home of some attorney (surprise).

What great friends John Edwards has . . . they do these extraordinary things for a woman that JRE boffed only briefly almost two years ago (when his wife's cancer was in remission, of course) and who he never loved anyway and who he did not produce offspring with.

Okay, the clock is running. How long before this story "breaks" in the "quality" media?