About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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August 08, 2008


John Robinson

As the editor who laughed it off, it's true that I responded with a quip. I didn't know you were asking me a serious question requiring the real answer or I would have treated your question seriously. My fault.

For the record, I have addressed it several times on my blog and I wrote a newspaper column about it, explaining our position to those readers.

In our case, it's not about "not invented here." It's more about knowing the efforts other media orgs are making to get the story and not trying to duplicate that so that we can focus closer to home. Charlotte and Raleigh were aggressively pursuing Edwards -- he lives in Raleigh -- and I didn't see what we could add by throwing another body on it with only marginal sources in the Edwards camp.

We published what Raleigh and Charlotte published, thanks to the McClatchy wires. We editorialized about it. And we explained what we were doing and not doing to the readers. To me, that was not irresponsible.

John Robinson

Oops. Edwards famously moved out of Raleigh into a mansion south of Chapel Hill. Sorry.


Those of us out here in "flyover country" remember quite well that when the National Enquirer broke the story about Rush Limbaugh being addicted to Oxycontin, the traditional media jumped on it within MINUTES.

Given that, the only possible explanation for non-coverage of the Edwards story is that Edwards is a Democrat.

Shelly Borrell

I'm really tired of the biased media and lying politicians. Something needs to change. http://usacopywriter.wordpress.com/

Danny Vice

Gitmo which is horrendously old news will likely get more news coverage over the next two years than the Edwards story will, because leftists would rather attack their own country over and over and over and over than make a single one of their own accountable for anything.

Liberals will be in downplay mode, eager to get back to trashing their own country - saying:

“Poor Edwards’ family. They must really be hurting right now. Now let’s get back to talking about how horrible America is...and how Conservatives are to blame – never minding the fact that liberals have been in control of congress for how long?.”

That is the difference….

When a conservative messes up, other conservatives pressure the idiot out of whatever office they hold or hope to hold. Conservatives don’t start making excuses, yipping again about 6 year old stories designed to announce to the world how much they hate their country.

When a liberal lies, cheats, pays off a mistress and insults others in the process – well then liberals immediately go into all the reasons why it’s no big deal.

Well here’s a news flash for the baby wild eyed, protest giddy leftist who seems to think this isn’t a big deal….. this story is not going away in a week.. or two… or three….Why?

Because Edwards is STILL lying about half the story… Just like a typical liberal, he lies even when he “supposedly” is coming clean. Of course Clinton really said it best – it all depends on what the definition of “is” is…… liberals never change…

Danny Vice

Mark Stencel

Potts: I'm a bit late in posting a reply on this....

I'm with you on the not-invented-here problem. In this day and age, our job in journalism increasingly requires us to help readers/viewers/clickers make sense of the multiple streams of information they receive. One good example: PolitiFact, a site you praised in another recent posting, which obtained a copy of Obama's birth certificate to address unsubstantiated rumors that "Muhammed" was once part of his name ( http://tinyurl.com/5vrus3 ). Full disclosure: I work for St. Pete Times Publishing/CQ Inc., which is responsible for PolitiFact.

I will take issue with you on your liberal media argument. You specifically mentioned former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose widely rumored extramarital affair with a young congressional committee staffer went largely unreported by major media until it was revealed by a supermarket tabloid. (Sound familiar?) Amazingly, this was during the Starr investigation of President Clinton and his subsequent impeachment/Senate trial.

Another example was Mayor Giuliani's rumored affairs, which got hardly any mainstream ink or air time for an amazingly long time, given their wide circulation and the sometimes low journalistic standards in New York's very competitive media market. When that story did eventually break into the mainstream press, it did so in a typically big New York way, of course.

When my co-authors and I looked into the Gingrich and Giuliani cases for a book on how news organizations deal with personal scandals involving politicians, we found lots of reasons why editors and producers decided NOT to go after certain stories. "Not-invented-here" issues and related competitive concerns were indeed big factors. Concerns about relevance, proof, source material and even reader standards were much, much more common. But I'm having a hard time thinking of any case studies we looked at where partisan considerations played any part in a decision NOT to publish or broadcast something unseemly about a politician.

I'll leave the broader liberal bias argument to others. But when it comes to stories about the personal lives of politicians, regardless of party, journalists are absolutely fair and nonpartisan -- which is to say they are equally ambivalent and far more squeamish than the public generally appreciates.


While ignoring political sexcapades of the likes of John Edwards, newspaper editors these days seem to be slipping back into the bad old days of cheescake on their Web sites.
"Are Hollywood stars cuter with puppies?" asks the Los Angeles Times, offering several pictures of young women displaying their affinity to dogs.
The Denver Rocky Mountain News has been covering a swimsuit shoot in Mexico of Denver Bronco cheerleaders. There will be a 2009 calendar, but the Rocky offers a preview of "exclusive photos from Bronco cheerleader shoot."
The Orlando Sentinel has obviously thought about this for a while, and presents "Bad Tans."
I could go on. I think this was started by USA Today weekend, and now seems clearly to be a trend. Gets the click-through up, I guess.
But how long before we cross the line into Rupert Murdoch's Page 3 girls. Now Playboy is facing dire financial problems, a cheesecake fill is obviously in dire need.


Mr. Stencel, the chief difference between the Gingrich case you cited and Edwards' was that the National Enquirer initially reported this story in October 2007. Thus, it had already been reported by a tabloid and most of the major news outlets ignored it for several months. They continued to ignore it after Mr. Edwards' late night hotel visit that was again reported by the Enquirer with substantial portions of that account confirmed by a third party on the record. It seems that the better recent analogy is to the New York Times' story insinuating McCain had an affair largely based on off-the-record sources claiming that they were worried he was. The Times was rightly excoriated for this, but they did not publicly admit to any laxity of standards. Yet, they were nowhere to be found in the reporting of the Edwards case.


Danny Vice said "When a conservative messes up, other conservatives pressure the idiot out of whatever office they hold or hope to hold. Conservatives don’t start making excuses".

So why is Larry Craig is still in congress?

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