Two pretty incredible scandals over the past couple weeks in the world of journalism really lay bare how corroded the Beltway media structure truly is. First we had the Washington Post Pay-2-Play scandal, which as their ombudsman reports was far more widespread than at first disclosed, with key editors in the newsroom knowing about it for months. And now, from South Carolina's flagship paper The State, we learn about how access drives everything inside the Beltway.
National media blitzed Gov. Mark Sanford’s staff, offering big ratings and, possibly, a sympathetic venue in an effort to land the first interview with the governor after his six-day trip to Argentina.
In addition, a blogger and state leaders reached out to Sanford’s office to try to coordinate a way to “push back” on the growing mystery surrounding Sanford’s absence.
The behind-the-scenes maneuvering is detailed in e-mails released by the governor’s office this week in response to The State’s request under the freedom of information act.
The e-mails show some outlets promised Sanford “friendly ground,” while others objected to early reports that questioned his disappearance.
“If you all want to speak on this publicly, you’re welcome to Washington Times Radio,” wrote staffer Joseph Deoudes to Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer on June 23. “You know that you will be on friendly ground here!" [...]
Another reporter, Griff Jenkins of Fox News, invited Sanford on to set the record straight.
“Having known the Governor for years and even worked with him when he would host radio shows for me,” Jenkins wrote to Sawyer on June 23, “I find the story and the media frenzy surrounding it to be absolutely ridiculous!” [...]
“If he wants something more personal for the blog to push back, I’m happy to help,” wrote Erick Erickson, a writer for RedState.com. On June 23, Erickson ripped “media speculation” about Sanford’s whereabouts.
“I wasn’t trying to be a reporter. I wanted to curtail the story,” Erickson said by e-mail. “Well that didn’t work.” [...]
The media e-mails also illuminate the tactics of national outlets to land the big interview.
ABC News White House reporter Jake Tapper e-mailed Sawyer twice on June 23, both to note coverage of competitor NBC.
With a subject line of “NBC spot was slimy,” Tapper e-mailed Sawyer a “Today” show transcript of Sanford coverage, calling it “insulting.” Later, Tapper forwarded Sawyer a Twitter post by “Meet The Press” host David Gregory.
Jeff Schneider, a vice president at ABC News, said Tapper was “carrying some water for producers who knew he had a relationship with the governor’s office.”
My favorite is actually from "Governor" Stephen Colbert, although he actually comes off looking just as bad as the rest of the media - though he's not a member of it and thus looks a bit better.
The media really favors the "get" over the truth, and it took a paper like The State to actually do some reporting on this story. Good for them for publishing these emails, by the way, because it's quite illuminating. Now, a for-profit business like journalism could maybe be given a bit of slack for wanting to chase a popular story. But these are the same people who call for blogger ethics panels at every opportunity, who put themselves on some kind of pedestal where they are unassailable objectives observers, when that clearly isn't the case. They drive stories based on external events, access and ego-massaging, and it happens much more than anyone thinks.