Raleigh Editor: Edwards Went Big Time
Editors, media analysts and pundits are still grappling over how the mainstream press handled the sordid tale of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and his mistress, questioning everything from off-the-record chats with the onetime presidential candidate to wondering aloud about the credibility of the tabloid that broke the story, The National Enquirer.
Edwards's off-the-record comments to Raleigh News & Observer Executive Editor John Drescher in October, in which he denied having an extramarital affair, sparked a Sunday column examining the paper's relationship, or lack thereof, with the homegrown politician.
"Because he has acknowledged he lied, I feel free to report" about the conversation, Drescher wrote.
After News & Observer editors weighed whether or not to run a follow-up to the Enquirer story, Dresher said, Edwards called Drescher from an airport, urging him not to run the story. He denied the Enquirer's allegations that he'd had an affair with an unnamed woman -- later identified as campaign videographer Rielle Hunter.
"He said The N&O was the paper that arrived on his doorstep every day, the one read by friends of him and his wife, Elizabeth," Drescher wrote. "He said he'd never called before to complain or state his case. Given Elizabeth's health -- she has cancer -- he said it was especially important to him that the story not run in The N&O."
The News & Observer didn't end up running the story, though they did send a reporter to New York to chase the story on Hunter. Having been scooped, Drescher complained of a strained relationship between Edwards and his hometown newspaper: "When it came time to talk about his affair, Edwards was true to form. He went national and chose his friends at ABC News."
Much of the discussion surrounding the Edwards story is still focused on The National Enquirer's dogged reporting over several months that led to the biggest scoop of the summer.
"Yankee ingenuity and shoe leather (no doubt along with some well-placed gratuities to relevant sources) had cracked yet another huge story," The New York Times' David Carr wrote.
CBS News sent Kelly Cobiella to hang out with the The Enquirer's editor and senior writer, Alexander Hitchin, who worked on the Edwards story. After looking at the tabloid's history and reputation, CBS News reporter, Cobiella asked why other news outlets didn't immediately pounce on the affair story.
Kurt Anderson, a media analyst and contributing editor at New York Magazine, told her: "That is the sixty-four thousand million dollar question, isn't it?"
"The National Enquirer gives the story cooties for all the Times and Boston Globes, the Washington Posts of the world," Anderson said. "That is partly because thirty years, forty, fifty years ago, the National Enquirer was very different than today. It is this low-brow celebrity scandal-mongering thing."
By Derek Kravitz |
August 18, 2008; 4:27 PM ET
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