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November 18, 2009
Learning from a Seamy Story

We've been meaning to pass along this enterprising look from Gawker into how coverage of the Eliot Spitzer affair unfolded in The New York Times, which broke the story of the former New York governor's prostitution scandal last year. Under New York's open records law, Gawker did some investigative work of its own in obtaining e-mail messages between Spitzer's communication director and press secretary and reporters who covered the story. "We were curious what the inside of a PR meltdown looks like," and found out. For The Times, especially, it wasn't ennobling. 

Gawker claims, "The New York Times showed Spitzer's flacks extraordinary deference as the scandal unfolded." You can be the judge of that. We're as fascinated by the comments at the end of the lengthy Gawker post as the peek it provides into media practice itself. 

As one says, "You'll learn more about reporting here than in four years of J-school." And not necessarily best practices, either. Give the whole file an attentive read, if you can take it. 

Defending The New York Times, a spokeswoman said, "Our goal, always, is to get the facts right. Dealing with sources responsibly and professionally serves that goal, and that is what our reporters did in this case."

You be the judge. 




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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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