I can think now of five separate angles the mainstream news outlets are missing with the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal story. In other words, by not writing about the charges originally—airing them out and letting their audience assess their validity—the media is now in the position of stamping down not one story, but five. What tangled webs we are weaving!
Once the story hits the front pages, as it inevitably will, we’re going to hear all the excuses as to why reputable news outlets couldn’t find their way to telling their readers patently interesting news about a major political figure that was widely available on the web. This arrogance will help reinforce the perceptions in the audience that the media is not always looking out for their best interests and continue the move to alternative outlets. I’m as devoted a follower of the traditional media as can be, but this willful non-disclosure makes me want to scream.
As yet, the cable channels have been somewhat shielded from this; it’s too bad there’s not a growing web-only political talk show that has been tracking this. (I can’t find any mentions of it on bloggingheads.tv via its search box, but I don’t know how reliable the search engine is.)
Here are the stories, with the various points to hit in each included:
1) The National Enquirer’s creepy vendetta. How the tabloids work … the difference among the Enquirer, the Examiner and the Weekly World News … the Enquirer’s history of accuracy or inaccuracy … the logistics and costs of such a months-long effort … who owns it? … who calls the shots?
2) Why the mainstream press has dodged the story. The backstage timidity … the concern for Elizabeth Edwards … the Ick Factor … the inconsistency of whose adulterous affairs get written about and whose do not.
3) The silence of the lambs: Not anything you wouldn’t expect, but it’s worth noting that the the nation’s press critics and ombudsmen are quiet, too. Howie Kurtz, this is tailor made for you: Only you can investigate why you haven’t written this story! The one exception I know of is Jack Shafer in Slate, which has gone at the story several ways. But where is Tim Rutten? The Observer? Even Salon has offered only one tepid account of the Enquirer story. Which brings us to …
4) The compromised intellectual honesty of the liberal blogosphere. Kausfiles is linking to a Daily Kos regular who got his posting privileges disappeared after he started writing about the issue: