Archive for October, 2009

An embarrassing absence

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Last week’s issue of New York magazine had an interesting piece which charted the gestation of several big news stories from recent weeks. Among the stories tracked by the magazine was one which speculated whether John Edwards would acknowledge paternity of Rielle Hunter’s baby.

The point of the article was to show how the information in big news stories comes from many disparate sources these days. As it did for each of the seven news articles it featured, the magazine started with a specific news report — in Edwards’ case, a Sept. 20 story about the baby-daddy drama on the front page of The New York Times —and then showed how various news organizations had contributed little pieces of the unfolding story over the past couple of years. The National Enquirer gets much credit for exposing Edwards, of course, but others reported key bits. WRAL-TV in Raleigh is mentioned three times, and the Charlotte Observer gets credit for two significant updates.

The News & Observer, Edwards’ hometown paper, isn’t mentioned once. Of the two dozen times when the Edwards story was pushed further along by reporting, the magazine credits the N&O for none of them.

This isn’t meant to be red meat for the Glenn Beck crowd. My gut tells me the explanation for the N&O’s invisibility on the Edwards story is rooted more in circumstance than conspiracy. It was a tabloid rumor at first, and the N&O was reluctant to dive into the muck for the story. But when Edwards’ affair couldn’t be kept out of respectable newspapers any longer, the N&O had neither the manpower nor financial resources to catch up to the story, much less get ahead of the national reporting pack.

Still, it has to be humiliating for a proud paper to see the history of the Edwards saga set out in the pages of New York magazine — and not get so much as a faint mention for a story the N&O should have owned.