Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Danger of Reporting in Real Time

Caroline Kennedy and Gov. David Paterson

By Clark Hoyt
New York Times Public Editor

Last Wednesday, The [New York] Times lifted the curtain on the origins of a nasty political attack against Caroline Kennedy, who had sought appointment to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat and then withdrew for unexplained “personal reasons.”

The newspaper said that Gov. David Paterson’s administration had “released confidential information about Ms. Kennedy and misled reporters about its significance as part of an orchestrated effort to discredit her after she withdrew.” The Times’s Danny Hakim and Nicholas Confessore reported that on the day after Kennedy’s decision, the governor’s top communications strategist, Judith Smith, directed at least two people to call reporters and tell them that Paterson was dismayed by Kennedy’s public auditioning for the Senate, that he never intended to appoint her and that she pulled out because of tax and nanny issues. ...

The article was a smart, useful revelation about New York hardball politics and the credibility of the state’s accidental governor. But it should have gone further. It should have examined The Times’s own role in the story — posting the orchestrated leak on its Web site and allowing “a person close to Gov. David A. Paterson” to make nasty comments about Kennedy anonymously.The episode highlights a great fear in newsrooms, including The Times’s: that the Internet, with its emphasis on minute-to-minute competition, is undermining the values of the print culture. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

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