News next: a journalism teacher's diary

July 7, 2011

Sex and the New York Post

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 6:04 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Strauss-Kahn's mug shot

When the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn collapsed, the New York Post piled on with a bombshell claiming that the hotel chambermaid who accused the former head of the International Monetary Fund of raping her was a prostitute.

The story begins in textbook fashion:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s accuser wasn’t just a girl working at a hotel — she was a working girl.
The Sofitel housekeeper who claims the former IMF boss sexually assaulted her in his room was doing double duty as a prostitute, collecting cash on the side from male guests, The Post has learned.

Leads make promises. This one asserts categorically that the housekeeper was a whore. Does it keep the promise? Does the Post really know what it says it knows? (more…)


October 19, 2010

Sex in the Tribune Tower

Under new management, the Tribune executive suite had an Animal House atmosphere, according to The New York Times

The headline got your attention, didn’t it? Sex sells, and that’s undoubtedly why a front page article in The New York Times of Oct. 6 begins with a dirty story.

To set up his tale of how the Tribune Company, proud publisher of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Baltimore Sun, The Hartford Courant and The Orlando Sentinel, destroyed some of the finest newsrooms in the country and collapsed into bankruptcy, David Carr describes an after-hours gathering of the company’s new chief executive Randy Michaels and some colleagues in a hotel bar.

After Mr. Michaels arrived, according to two people at the bar that night, he sat down and said, “watch this,” and offered the waitress $100 to show him her breasts. The group sat dumbfounded.

“Here was this guy, who was responsible for all these people, getting drunk in front of senior people and saying this to a waitress who many of us knew,” said one of the Tribune executives present, who declined to be identified because he had left the company and did not want to be quoted criticizing a former employer. “I have never seen anything like it.”

Mr. Michaels, who otherwise declined to be interviewed, said through a spokesman, “I never made the comment allegedly attributed to me in January 2008 to a waitress at the InterContinental Hotel, and anyone who said I did so is either lying or mistaken.”

Does anyone else feel queasy about this anecdote? The reporter bases it on two anonymous sources; Michaels says it never happened. How does Carr, who wasn’t there, know the story is true? How do we? (more…)

April 17, 2010

Shh! it’s a secret

Whether basing a story on anonymous sources makes the story less credible is a subject of intense debate among news gatherers and news consumers.

People who provide information on condition that they won’t be identified may act out of malice, and may be seeking to mislead reporters or to tarnish the reputation of an enemy. The notorious case in which Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff sought to blunt criticism of the Bush Administration by leaking the identity of a CIA agent is a case in point.

There’s no doubt, though, that in some cases sources risk their livelihood or even their freedom by revealing confidential or secret information they believe the public should know.

A recent case of that kind illustrates both the kinds of agreements reporters make to gain access to information and the risks sources take to provide it.

On April 14, 2010, a federal grand jury indicted Thomas Drake, an employee of the National Security Agency, and accused him of passing classified information to The Baltimore Sun. (Because The Sun was not accused of wrongdoing, the reporter, Siobhan Gorman, was identified by prosecutors only as “Reporter A.”)

The Sun ran a series of articles that raised questions about NSA programs. One began

Two technology programs at the heart of the National Security Agency’s drive to combat 21st-century threats are stumbling badly, hampering the agency’s ability to fight terrorism and other emerging threats, current and former government officials say.

Another raised the likelihood that an electrical outage would paralyze the agency.

Here’s the deal Gorman made with Drake, according to the indictment: (more…)

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