Thursday, June 25, 2009

Asleep at the Switch

No wonder newspapers are going broke and losing readership.

The State newspaper in South Carolina says it had emails between Gov. Mark Sanford and his girl friend since December. And NOW they are releasing them.

Based on the story in editions for Thursday (June 25, 2009), it really doesn't sound like the newspaper put all that much effort into verifying the emails until yesterday.

The story about the emails says:

"E-mails obtained by The State newspaper in December detailed an affair between Gov. Mark Sanford and Maria, a woman in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"However, attempts to verify the e-mails — from an anonymous source — were fruitless, until Wednesday. Then, acting on another anonymous tip that Sanford would be on a plane returning from Argentina, the paper sent a reporter to Atlanta.

"When Sanford got off a plane from Buenos Aires, he stopped an interview with The State when asked if he had been with anyone in Argentina.

"The State then contacted Sanford’s office and a former aide, explicitly saying it had e-mails between the governor’s personal e-mail address and an Argentine woman and thought them to be genuine."

Sure makes it sound like they never even asked the governor's office about the emails between December and yesterday.

The State Newspaper reporter who met Sanford at the Atlanta airport when he got off a plane from Argentina said on the Rachel Maddow show last night that it was good, old-fashioned reporting that broke the story and not the "new media." I'm sorry, but sitting on emails for six months is not exactly prize-winning journalism in my book.


kevins said...

Yeah, right. The reason newspapers are going broke and losing money is because they won't act like tabloids and use unverified emails to splash a private story about a possible affair involving a public figure.

Is that what you consider good journalism...peaking into other folks' bedrooms?

Newspapers have always had a difficult time determining what is fair game when covering the private lifes of public people. When Jim Blanchard was governor and Lansing had a robust news bureau, reporters heard for a long time that the married gov was seeing another woman. But they held back, unsure of how to confirm or even how to ask the question. (By the way, newspapers were making craploads of money back then.)

Are extramarital affairs a story? If so, should newspapers periodically ask every public official if he/she is having an affair? Should it only be done when there is suspicion? Or when it appears as if there is mis-use of public funds? What if the public official is single but is cheating on his girlfriend? What if there is a homosexual affair? Just where are you drawing the line for invasion of privacy?

By the way, the Detroit Free Press is losing money. It also uncovered the sordid Kwame Kilpatrick story. How does that fit with your snide newspaper economic analysis?

Or is it only news when a Republican strays? I haven't seen any story that said Sanford abused taxpayer dollars. Kwame's affair led to the firing of good cops and a millions-dollar losses for the city.

The tawdry Gennifer Flowers affair didn't go public until it was printed in the National Enquirer. Is that your standard for good journalism?

These are difficult stories particularly when the adulterous politician has made self-righteous statements about other peoples' private lives...which appears to be the case with Sanford.

I can't figure out which pleases you more...the personal family tragedy suffered by the Sanfords, or the economic problems plaguing newspapers.

Judy said...

Sanford went to Argentina on the taxpayers' dollar. That's abusing taxpayers' money. So is disappearing from his job for days at a time, being unreachable.

The newspaper didn't have to print them as unverified emails. The point is, they never even tried to verify them.

kevins said...

His trip to Argentina was reported as was his missing 4 days. The paper's reporters met him at an Atlanta airport to blow open this alibi. Did you expect that paper to report about the AWOL six months before it happened?

Reporting on marital infidelity is difficult. That was my point and you conveniently ignored it. Papers knew the story about John Edwards little tryst -- which was funded improperly through campaign funds -- long before printing it (other than the National Enquirer). They didn't print it until Edwards publicly admited it. Funny...that didn't draw any criticism from you.

Such decisions have been made in inconsistent matters for decades, long before newspapers faced financial problems.

You declined to address the difficulty of making these decisions. You also ignored the fact that it was the financially troubled Free Press that exposed Kwame Kilpatrick. How does that square with your ecnomic theory?

Do you think all stories of infidelity...or rumors of infidelity...involving public officials should be reported? If so, for what officials? President? Governor? State rep? County commissioner? School board member? Office-holders only or candidates as well? Spousal infidelity only or boyfriend-girlfriend cheating? How about boyfriend-boyfriend? What if it is the office-holder's spouse who is unfaithful?

What if the newspaper in South Carolina had verified the emails as authentic? Do they then ask the governor if he has had an affair? Do they call his wife and ask her about the affair? What if the couple has an "open marriage" or a "marriage of convenience?" Is it news then?

Should we ask how often a married couple has sex? What positions they practice? Some people think oral sex is sinful. Should we ask them that? I just want to know how personal you think newspapers have to get with elected officials in order to be successful, in your opinion.