Friday, March 14, 2008

Spitzer and the NYT, behind the scenes

Check out this piece that does the tick-tock on Gov. Spitzer's recognition. It provides a look at how the New York Times handled its own role in the Spitzer story, and in doing so provides a glimpse of some of the reporting that went on. (Note also that it relies on anonymous sources, which is problematic in terms of the assessing the story's credibility, and that's a whole other discussion we could have sometime).

Two things struck me -- one as pretty cool, the other as a critique of the story:

Cool -- the unfolding of the court appearance of those arrested in the prostitution sting was very much like how the Washington Post's Watergate reporting got started (though on a smaller scale, of course): In the Spitzer case, there was a routine court hearing, but reporters noticed that the prosecutor was the main public corruption guy. They caught the scent of something bigger and went after it. In Watergate, it was a routine court appearance until, when the judge asked the men where they worked, James McCord said, "CIA," and Bob Woodward's radar went off.

Critique -- Spitzer's wife's reaction is limited to her advice to him about whether he should stay or quit as governor. Obviously, that wasn't her only reaction to all this, and it would have been nice if the story had at least acknowledged there was a personal side to the discussions, even if the reporters couldn't find out details.