An embarrassing absence

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.

18 Responses to “An embarrassing absence”

  1. In The Arena Says:

    As long as you as you remain well established within the Democratic party, and as long as you cooperate with the N&O, many indescretions shall be overlooked. Just ask Mike Easley, who’s let out to dry for doing nothing more than Jim Hunt or Marc Basnight ever did.

    Your many friendships not withstanding GD, the N&O is no more than a cheap shill for the Democratic Party

  2. Locomotive Breath Says:

    In the Arena is exactly right. As I believe I’ve pointed out before…

    1) Despite perfectly adequate evidence that there was something fishy in Durm, the N&O was a cheerleader for Mike Nifong until he was safely re-elected.

    2) The N&O waited to turn on Easley until after Bev was safely elected.

    3) The Edwards affair was ignored until his political viability was gone due to other reasons.

    I could buy maybe one of these being an event in which the N&O got to the story late. But three times right under their noses? Nope. Then they wonder why they’re going out of business.

  3. John Says:

    How old is Ms Hunter’s baby? The little rascal should bear some resemblance to the father by now.

    I saw a newborn pic in the internet back when the story was new. Hell, the kid looked kinda like Vern Troyer - most newbies do, I guess. Fortunately we all grow out of that stage - except for Vern - poor bastard.

    Well, genetics will tell every time. If this kid is blessed with luxurient, brown hair and a smile to die for - John won’t be able to deny his paternity with any credibility whatsoever.

    He’s had plenty of practice at that.

  4. NotThatImportant Says:

    Loco, I won’t argue with points 1 or 3. Especially 1 as that is well founded criticism for which the N&O should take shame. I don’t really care about 3 but, if you and others feel our democracy is better served by the knowledge that a politician is boinking someone outside his/her marriage and our local paper should pull out all stops and commit considerable precious resources to bare out these details then okay — they did get scooped so fair enough.

    However, point 2 is completely unfair and continually beating that drum only serves to weaken your argument. The N&O pursued Easley doggedly while he was still in office. The reason you never read any of these stories before his retirement, was due to Easley successfully using his authority while in office to block the release of anything that could be used to substantiate what were, at the time, rumors. It wasn’t until his departure from office that any evidence was available to document misdeeds.

    And, in fact, some things were reported. I guess you don’t recall (or chose to ignore) the whole email retention/public records fiasco. This story came about only after dogged attempts to uncover malfeasance were being stymied because emails about many matters were being intentionally purged at the direction of the administration.

    Easley had a well known reputation for making journalists jobs harder. I recall one story where, when seeking comment from Easley on some controversial matter, reporters were camped outside in front of the idling limo he usually used for transportation. It was later discovered that the limo was sent out as a decoy while Easley escaped through the back door and left in a different vehicle. Although I can’t recall the matter he wished to avoid, I read this story in the N&O.

  5. NotThatImportant Says:

    Oh yeah, I would have to check the records but I’m fairly certain the available evidence of the sweetheart cannons gate land deal was being reported in the pages of the N&O long before Easley left office which would technically make your argument factually wrong. I’m going by memory (and mine ain’t what it used to be) so I apologize if I have my facts wrong.

  6. In The Arena Says:

    NTI, if I might be so bold, I believe what you are overlooking is the fact that Easley has never been a “good Democrat” by North Carolina standards. His underlying weakness had always been his go-it-alone style. I honestly believed (because it’s just the kind of gullible yet hopeful kind of person I am - consider it the liberal wing of my personality) that Easley represented a fresh take on the stale Hunt/Basnight et. al. two-step that continues to smother this state. Silly me. Easily (pun intended) was looking out for he and Mary alone. Sad. Look at what Hooker-Odum did to healthcare in this state. Sure, she was hot in a MILF sort of way, but honestly, is that enough really?

    Yea, but lest I be misconstrued, I hold no flame for the virtues of the sad pathetic Republicans of this our great state. But until they can at least present some credible threat (and address the district jury-rigging) there remains little hope for change.

    Easily just a sad footnote.

  7. NotThatImportant Says:

    Hey Arena,

    Bold away! I love the variety of opinion on WAW and it’s not every day you get to read someone’s muse on a serious topic with the MILF acronym included (at the risk of being labeled a sexist dirty old man, I’ll admit I dig the MILFs).

    In any event, I don’t think I overlooked anything. I made no attempt to establish the devotion (or lack thereof) of Easley to his party or whether he was a good liberal or bad. Actually, I didn’t even weigh in on his guilt (I believe he is/was totally corrupt). I was merely pointing out the inclusion of “the N&O waited to bring rain on Easley’s parade till a new Dem was installed” among the blogging points of the conspiracy theorists merely serves to weaken the argument that the N&O gives liberals a pass until some other news organization forces their hand.

    This particular point ignores the facts and plays loose with the truth — not exactly the best choice if you are trying to make a fair case for your claim. Sort of like the whole “death panels” claim in the health care debate — it’s simply not true so it doesn’t really matter whether you think it’s good or bad.

    One could probably make a decent case that liberal bias exists in the news stories of the N&O. Just not with this as your evidence.

  8. Walter Abbott Says:

    For anyone wondering whether newspaper coverage is “balanced,” there is a very simple test to apply. Swap the political parties and/or race of the covered subjects and estimate what the news coverage would be like.

    In the case of the Duke Lacrosse Frame, make Crystal Mangum white and make the players AA. How long would Mangum’s false accusations have stood up to the reporting of the NandO, HS, WRAL, WTVD, etc?

    In the case of (W)Easly, had he been an R, does anyone think he could have gotten away with what he did while in office? Or would the hard-charging North Carolina news media wait until after he was out of power to investigate?

    And in the case of Edwards, if he were an R, would the media have sat on the story they all had (but wouldn’t run) during his ‘08 race for the presidential nomination? Or would the story have been a huge story on all networks, major metro newspapers and newsmagazines?

    This test works almost every time it is applied.

  9. Locomotive Breath Says:

    “The reason you never read any of these stories before his retirement, was due to Easley successfully using his authority while in office to block the release of anything that could be used to substantiate what were, at the time, rumors.”

    The thing that really opened the floodgates on Easley was Mary being hired by NCSU. This was a mater of public record and was not and could not be suppressed from the governor’s office. The gov’s wife being hired ANYWHERE funded by the state should set any decent newspaper’s antenna twitching.

    The hiring happened with about two years left in his term so they had plenty of time to look into it before the election. Her excessive salary easily discoverable. (I was formerly on the faculty at NCSU. We were warned that our salaries could be obtained if someone really wanted to.) The N&O was disinclined to be interested until after Easley was out of office.

    If you don’t want to talk about John Edwards love baby, let’s talk about his losing the VP election in 2004. UNC created an entire new phony baloney institute to give him a place to hang out and advocate his signature issues while he planned his next run for office.

    “The Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity was started in February 2005 as a joint effort between the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the UNC School of Law and Senator John Edwards. Sen. Edwards directed the center until December 2006.”

    No one seemed to find anything fishy with that either.

  10. In The Arena Says:

    Walter, excellent point. Easy to use and accurate. I love it.

  11. NotThatImportant Says:

    >>This test works almost every time it is applied.

    Of course it does, because the critical component of your test is your own subjective (and totally biased) opinion of what would happen based on your selective memory of historical events. If you want it to pass, so it shall — no need to let anything like objective facts get in the way.

    I have already stated that I found the coverage of the Duke lacrosse case an embarrassing series of missteps. Yet, if I asked myself whether things would have been different if the accuser was white, I would say that (particularly if she was an attractive white girl) it may have been worse. It wouldn’t matter if it was AA, division 3 or high school — anyone recall a story from Glen Ridge, NJ? While the accusations and facts are somewhat different, many believe this too was based on a false accusation. And that white girl wasn’t even particularly attractive.

    As far as Easley is concerned, I’m just not familiar with a prominent NC republican with comparable circumstances for your test, but feel free to provide one that proves your point if you have one. If not restricted to NC pols, let’s say Dick Cheney. In both cases there was much media scrutiny while each was in office but not much in the way of incriminating evidence till both were out of office.

    Personally, I think the Edwards love child rumor was, on its face, totally tabloid and warranted no call for serious media inquiry regardless of party affiliation. However, if your argument is about timing of sleaze stories with campaign activities then how come we didn’t read about Mark Sanford’s mistress (or Ensign’s) until after elections were over?

    Loco, I’ll just say again that I believe you have your facts wrong. Mary Easley’s hiring was covered ad nauseam while it was happening with front pages that screamed the the exact amount of her excessive salary (and even editorials that called it excessive). What kept the gates holding the flood back was the lack of serious public outcry to those running the university. What finally opened the floodgates on this story was the email evidence that showed the actual facts were different than what university leaders had explained. Email evidence which was requested repeatedly and withheld or delayed until Easley was out of office. Go back and check the N&O archives and argue with them.

    Same is true of Edwards sweetheart UNC gig. Job was completely reported with salary and all in the N&O. Problem was, nobody gave a crap about cush jobs and outlandish salaries until the economy itself was in the crapper.

  12. Locomotive Breath Says:

    “I would say that (particularly if she was an attractive white girl) it may have been worse.”

    With respect to Walter Abbott’s hypothetical test, it’s not hypothetical. Ever heard of Katie Rouse? Didn’t think so. There’s a reason why. Google that name to find out.

    And I’ll repeat that if the N&O really wanted to get to the bottom of the Easley scandal they would have. The fact that Mary was never on campus is easily verified and would have been a good start.

    Maybe your search skills are better than mine, but in a search of the N&O archive, the earliest mention of “mary” AND “easley” AND “NCSU” is May 2009

    with this article

    Too late to really have any practical impact on the election. Please feel free to point out an earlier instance of coverage in the N&O questioning her job.

    I find I was mistaken. She was hired in May 2005. So that’s four solid years it took the N&O to catch on and they only published because they couldn’t ignore the provost’s resignation.

    Sure everyone knew about Edwards cush deal. My point is, where were the outraged howls from the N&O? You can bet they would have been there if a Republican had done that. Not that a Republican would have been able to get a sweet deal like that.

    Hell, they’re still trying to beat up on Lauch Faircloth through his daughter’s hog operation. Think that’d be in the news if it were a Dem? Not a chance.

  13. NotThatImportant Says:

    With no disrespect to Ms. Rouse (and other other victim), she suffered a crime committed against countless women every day across the nation — most of which receive less media attention than hers. You offer this example as though it is directly comparable to the Lacrosse case (”not hypothetical”). This was a case where a single disturbed individual raped a woman versus an accusation of an entire team raping a woman for entertainment at a party. And the DA was screaming from the rooftop that the team was guilty as sin. The Glen Ridge, NJ case is a lot more comparable and it generated intense national media attention. Again, I said the whole episode was handled poorly by the N&O and they should take shame for it but fairness should require comparing apples to apples.

    A quick search of the N&O archives for “mary” and “easley” and “salary” produces 120 hits. I don’t have time to go back through them all but, to provide evidence that your facts are wrong, one only needs to go back to September 2008 (pretty sure that precedes Purdue’s victory) to find this article headlined “Easley pay would be in top 3%.” One only need read the lede paragraph to see it is not an article in support of the excessive salary… “If Mary Easley’s $170,000 N.C. State University salary is approved this week, the state’s first lady would make more than all but 94 of 3,455 NCSU faculty and administrators made last year, according to a News & Observer analysis.”

    July 10, ‘08 has this headline in a news story “Easley raise skirted rules.”

    Looking through the archive results, you will find multiple editorials blasting the outrageous pay.

    “…they couldn’t ignore the provost’s resignation.”

    I believe a fair analysis of the events and the reporting would conclude that the resignation would not have occurred in want of the News & Observer reporting. How else would anyone know that the provost lied?

    Funny, I also came across another Easley fiasco covered in the N&O prior to a Purdue victory I had forgotten about — the European vacation.

    So I guess Anne Faircloth deserves a pass not paying 30 farmers for products she used in her business? She owns one of the largest pork operations in the country and she’s not paying her bills. Should the story be ignored?

    I would sure hope a republican would be called out on a seemingly sweetheart deal just like their democratic colleagues. But I guess you can tell Jim Black and Meg Scott Phipps that only Republicans are targeted by N&O investigative reporting.

    You can make a compelling case if you bend the facts to suit your argument and directly contradict the historical record with your claims — just not a fair one.

  14. Jim Says:


  15. NotThatImportant Says:

    Hey Jim,

    Didn’t know if your post is some type of subtle humor or you are honestly asking for a definition of MILF.

    This is an acronym reserved for females who have experienced maternity and generally have certain characteristics about their physical features that incite certain amorous desires in males.

    While, by strict definition, a MILF is determined by subjective test, popular use of the label has morphed it’s meaning to where some women are considered MILFs empirically (sometimes even by other women).

    If you hold the Ten Commandments dear, that whole coveting thy neighbor’s wife could complicate your enjoyment of the MILF but I’m not a particularly religious dude.

    The acronym consists of the words “Mother I’d Like to…” (think other word for shtup).

    To avoid testing WAW’s censor police (which we already know would likely let this pass) you could go with “Mother I’d Like to Fraternize with” (carnally!)

  16. G.D. Gearino Says:

    My guess is that Jim knows his wife occasionally checks WAW to see what comments he’s left, so he’s playing dumb in the interest of domestic tranquility.

  17. NotThatImportant Says:

    That’s okay, perhaps it’s embarrassing to admit but I actually had a chuckle or two while offering the explanation. In want of a new WAW post, it served as my entertainment for the day. Pretty pathetic when you have to make yourself laugh.

  18. Jim Says:

    You are generous, GD, thanks. Now could someone please provide an answer to this “Cougar” thing?