Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Phone conversation with N&O exec editor

I said I’d post concerning a brief phone conversation I’d had Thursday, 7/31, with Raleigh News & Observer executive editor for news John Drescher.

My call to Drescher was prompted by many emails and calls I’d been getting for days concerning what people said they were being told when they contacted the N&O to ask why it hadn’t reported anything on the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter affair. The N&O did, on 7/31, for the first time report on the affair but with few details (eg. The N&O didn’t even name Hunter) in the “B” section.

I was being contacted by everyone from JinC Regulars to people who’d read Bob Wilson’s column here or at the Poynter Institute’s Jim Romenesko’s page, a "visit daily" site for thousands, most of whom are journalists, journalism students, news executives and media critics.

What I was hearing “ran the gamut” and was often contradictory.

My call was to suggest the N&O post at statement explaining its treatment of the Edwards-Hunter affair at the newsobserver.com Editors’ Blog and refer callers and emailers there. The statement could be updated as needed.

Drescher returned my call about 8 PM. The conversation was our second voice contact. We’d had a Q&A exchange at a public forum last year at Duke Law School.

I did not take notes.

I recall the conversation as mutually civil, issue-focused and intense.

Drescher said the matter of a statement at the Editors’ Blog was now moot since the paper had published that day on the story and would be reporting on it the following day. He didn’t say and I didn’t ask what the paper would be reporting.

I said a statement was still needed because the N&O had gone so long without ever reporting on the affair.

Drescher countered that the story was “tabloid” and unsubstantiated. He said he thought the N&O’s treatment of it had been “just right.”

We went back-and-forth on that, each of us invoking points and issues that are familiar parts of “the publish/not publish” debate surrounding the Edwards-Hunter affair debate.

During a series of exchanges, each of us heard the other’s point and then quickly countered.

We came to a place in the conversation where we mutually agreed we’d heard each other; said our pieces; and should begin wrapping up.

In closing, I commended Drescher for his willingness to return readers' calls and urged him to respond as well to readers’ questions and comments at the Editors’ Blog.

Drescher noted out how time consuming that can be. He also said he conceives of the EB as a place where he and other senior editors post ideas, explain the N&O’s treatment of a particular story, etc., which the readers can them comment upon and discuss among themselves.

I said I wanted to make the case why at least some answering by editors of readers’ questions at the EB was very important but would do that at another time.

We ended the conversation with my thanking him for returning the call and his time, his telling me he saw that as part of his job, and each of us wishing the other well.

Folks, I’m sending Drescher an email with a link to this post. I’ll invite him to add anything he wishes. If he does, I’ll place what he sends here as an update and add “Update” to this post’s title.

John

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

John: Your discussion with Drescher may have been civil, but it was obviously fruitless. These people are convinced they are doing a perfect job and those of us who criticize them are abyssmally ignorant and presumptuous. Their ship is sinking; they won't recognize a "lifesaver" when you throw them one; what is accomplished by beating your head against that stone wall? In a short time, rags like N&O and the NY Slimes will be in history's dust-bin.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Ex-prosecutor said...

In the current issue of the online magazine Slate, there are pro and con articles by Mickey Kaus ("Protecting Elizabeth vs. telling the truth")and Elizabeth Bazelon ("Bad Juju? Tough—It's News").

Although I cannot recall a case involving a Republican similar to this, I suspect that MSM's claim they are avoiding treating this scandal as they should largely because of Mrs. Edwards illness is simply a rationalization for not wanting to reveal the shameful behavior and scheming of Mr. Edwards.

Another hypocrisy of his: I have always wondered what sort of fee arrangement he had with the families of the children he represented with catastrophic injuries for whom he got huge judgments.

Generally, lawyers get 40 - 50 percent of such sums, with the costs, such as travel, depositions and expert witnesses, then coming from the client's share. So, as a result, lawyers in such cases often get larger checks than do their clients.

Few events are more enjoyable that seeing a hypocrite being caught, but this must be a devastating blow to his wife, regardless of whether she learned of this just recently or earlier.

Anonymous said...

John:

I predict this woman will end up destroying him.

He will likely be on the receiving end of the same legal system that he used to punish others. A very fitting end, IMO.

Ken
Dallas

ryanpaige said...

When did "unsubstantiated" claims become something the N&O avoided?

Clearly some time long after their Duke Lacrosse coverage.

There were certainly many unsubstantiated things in the "Dancer Describes Ordeal" story.