Friday, August 15, 2008

Raleigh N&O and Charlotte Observer Edwards coverage

Yesterday I posted An Edwards Story Lesson: Use the Elephant. It contained journalist Bob Wilson’s column examining the different approaches the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer took to the National Enquirer’s expose of John Edwards’ long-running affair with his former campaign videographer Rielle Hunter.

The short of Bob’s column: N&O executive editor John Drescher's out of hand dismissal of the NE's expose helps explain why the N&O was so late and anemic reporting a major political story it should have owned. On the other hand, Observer editor Rick Thames decided to check out what the NE reported. His decision led to a number of major Observer stories which pushed the scandal beyond the new media and on to the front pages of America’s newspapers.

Be sure to read Bob’s column if you haven’t already.

Every fact stated in the column checks out. But not minding that, an Anon@6:31 made the following comment:

The N&O political team and the Charlotte Observer's political team sit in the exact same room. You're drawing distinctions between the two newspapers that simply no longer exist. John, I thought you made a commitment to fact check items posted on your blog.

Shortly thereafter, another Anon responded directly to Anon@6:31:

Iran and the U.S. sit in the exact same room at the U.N.

Did you ever hear of sharing an office?

The Observer reporters did what they did; the N&O reporters didn't do much.

Drescher says he sent a reporter to Santa Barbara, but the reporter got chased off by deputies as he approached one of the houses Edwards' "party members" were staying in.

NC to Cal is a long way to go to ring a bell.

The N&O just got beat as Bob says on a story they should have owned.

Journalists know that.

I thank the second Anon for providing a very good example of “the corrective power of the Net.”

I encourage anyone doubting whether the Charlotte Observer beat the pants off the Raleigh N&O on the Edwards Scandal story to do the following:

1) Read Clint Hendler’s American Journalism Review online article,” North Carolina Paper Covers the John Edwards Allegations – Carefully.” It’s a detailed, link-rich account of the Charlotte Observer's actions to report on the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter affair story while, as Bob document, the N&O’s public editor Ted Vaden was praising his papers restrained approach to the Edwards story and fretting over an invasion of Edwards privacy.

I'm not kidding about what Vaden said. It's all in his Aug. 3 column I've just linked to.

2) Read Observer reporter Jim Morrill’s 7/24 post hosted at and Observer reporter Mark Johnson’s 8/7 story. Both reporters checked out the NE report and then advanced the story.

Meanwhile, what did you read at the N&O Under the Dome political blog about the N&O’s “hometown” candidate and when did the N&O first post it?

3) By all means read N&O executive editor John Drescher's rare mid-week column which IMO just excused and fogged over the N&O's Edwards reporting failures. Example from the column:

...We sent an N&O reporter to California to confirm the confrontation and to interview Young and Hunter, who were living separately in Santa Barbara. We were unable to confirm the confrontation or to interview Hunter or Young. At one point, our Lorenzo Perez was chased out of Young's neighborhood by sheriff's deputies....

That what the second Anon was talking about when h/she said the reporter had been sent a long way to ring a bell.

4) Take a look at this post - The N&O finally touches the Edwards affair story - sorta - if after reading the items cited in 1, 2, and 3 you are still not convinced the N&O's Edwards Scandal reporting was late and anemic.

Congratulations and thanks are due Observer editor Rick Thames and his reporters and editors who worked on the story.

It's a shame Drescher and the N&O can't bring themselves to say that.

But does anyone who knows the N&O think they would?


Anonymous said...

The U.S. and Iran might sit in the same room, but they're not on the same TEAM. The N&O and Charlotte O are. This post really reveals a lack of understanding for how the papers are organized and is quite instructive for the rest of the 'analysis' on this blog. Check your facts, please.

JWM said...

To Anon @ 9:36,

I'm wondering whether you have a grudge against the N&O.

You keep posting assertions informed people know concern the N&O’s months-long blackout of its “hometown” presidential candidate’s sex scandal, followed by its bungled reporting of the story even on a secondary basis after the National Enquirer laid it in the N&O’s lap.

Worse, you keep calling attention to the fact that while the N&O had a story it should have owned from the beginning sitting in its lap, the N&O did precious little with it, while down I 85 the Charlotte Observer dug, verified, documented, confronted and got on the record interviews that made for a series of stories which moved the Edwards scandal and his lies to the front pages of America’s newspapers.

The N&O clearly failed on a major story, just as it failed by promoting the Duke Hoax and enabling the frame-up attempt spawned by the hoax and the N&O’s libeling of a group of white male Duke students as boozing racists, three of whom gang-raped a frightened, crying, young black mother while their teammates stood by and did nothing.

Are you really serious or just trying to demean the N&O for its failed Edwards coverage?

Anyone who follows the links Bob and I have provided will see the reporters named on the Edwards stories and their paper identified on the bylines.

They’ll also see N&O public editor Ted Vaden’s praise for what he said was the N&O’s refusal“to get caught up in the salacious details and drop the restraint that has marked The N&O's responsible approach to the story.”

And they’ll see N&O executive editor John Drescher’s “recovery column” a few days after Edwards admitted to an affair but denied paternity.

That’s the column in which the N&O’s coverage is no longer praise for its “restraint … and responsible approach to the story,” but is instead described as “aggressive,” at least by Drescher.

In any case, what’s your point?

I hope you’re not just trying to make Bob and JinC look good at the N&O’s expense.


Anonymous said...

John: I don't know, but the 9:36 seems to be covering for the N&O, not displaying a grudge against the paper. The way I read h/her comments, the barbs are pointed at you and your blog. Am I out in left field?
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

Dig this honest assessment by a journalist who befriended the Edwards'.