NOVAK-GATE IV: WAPO VS. NYT

Matthew Yglesias has a new piece in The American Prospect exploring the question that I’ve asked several times: Why WaPo is so hot on the Plame story while NYT (and virtually everyone else not blogging) is indifferent.

My recent move from New York City to Washington has brought with it a lot of changes, among them a new morning newspaper. Yesterday, that switch paid off in the form of a magnificent front-page article by Mike Allen and Dana Priest in The Washington Post. The piece confirmed reports that two Bush administration officials had blown the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame and quoted a senior administration official as saying it was done “purely and simply for revenge.”

***

While the Post was breaking big news of apparently illegal conduct by senior White House officials, The New York Times was left scrambling, eventually offering up a brief, un-bylined article that was significantly less informative than the Post’s coverage. A quick glance at today’s papers seemed to indicate that the Times was now ignoring the story altogether, but more careful scrutiny revealed that the information from the previous day’s story had been thrown into a page-one piece by Carl Hulse and David Sanger headlined “New Criticism on Prewar Use of Intelligence” — the main focus of which is on a letter from the House Committee on Intelligence. Interestingly enough, the Post had that story yesterday as well.

In both cases, it would appear that the Times’ inferior coverage is the fault of inferior access to sources of information rather than poor news judgment.

***

With Raines forced from office in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, the new management led by Bill Keller seems to be bending over backward to address these complaints by deliberately downplaying coverage of intelligence scandals that threaten to engulf the administration. Whether this will do the Times any good with its conservative critics remains to be seen, but the paper is threatening to shut itself out of what may develop into a major story. [original contains several hyperlinks]

That the NYT is gun shy strikes me as a plausible partial explanation for this. It does not, however, explain why WaPo seems to be virtually alone among the major media outlets in making a big deal of a story that, if true, would seem to be banner headline, 24-hour coverage, stop-the-presses significant.

FILED UNDER: Media,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. WaPo senese a “Watergate”. No one wants to be the one the fumbles that ball, whether it is worth running with or not.

  2. The NYT’s problem is most likely that Blair was their only source in Washington; I mean, he was probably 50 different unnamed “senior officials.”

    I’m joking… I think.

  3. John Steven says:

    I’ll add that this morning on CNN (American Morning) the Plame Affair was the lead story, while there was absolutely no mention of it on NBC’s Today Show.

  4. Chuck says:

    Are there any facts to this story at all? Wislon’s on-line bio clearly lists Valarie Plame as his wife.

    What bothers me the most about this affair is that the entire story is constructed by the news media using anonymous sources. In the blogosphere, we insist on links, and sources, so that we can “fact check your ass”. We have done that on many occasions and revealed factual and philosophical errors, and plagiarism, among other “crimes of fact”. Here we have an allegation that may or may not be a crime, but with no government official on the record providing any facts. We have Bob Novak’s word for the original story, and wronged husband Wilson’s complaint about it, and that is all. If this were a story originating in the Internet, it would have died a long time ago for lack of sourcing. Why is it that the news media can do this, over and over with many stories, and not be called on it? It’s not news if it cannot be fact checked, is it?

    Plame has to have been a covert intelligence officer whose name is classified for there to have been a crime. Several places have quotes that aledge that she is an analyst, which would make the disclosure not criminal. In any event, we need to know her position at the CIA at the time, as well as who made the original statements to Novak (and if you read him carefully, he does not say White House officials). Indeed, if you read him, he states that the CIA itself confirmed her employment there.

  5. Paul says:

    It actually goes beyond that Chuck…

    Not only do we have those infamous “anonymous sources” but we keep hearing the motivation was revenge….

    We have not even established what was said or who said it, pinning it on revenge is yet another leap.

    There is a stunning lack of facts here. I don’t know how it will turn out, but I find it hysterical that the delusional left have already said there will be convictions over this because “there is too much blood in the water.”

    All we KNOW for now is that the WaPo has hyped a story based on no hard facts. If I were a lefty I’d be careful before I started jumping for glee.

    We don’t know if this is a scandal or a news cycle. Declaring victory just makes people look foolish.

    Paul

  6. Anonymous says:

    From AP:

    Wilson backtracked Monday, saying he had not meant to imply that Rove “was the source or the authorizer, just that I thought that it came from the White House, and Karl Rove was the personification of the White House political operation.”

    So there’s nothing behind this so far except for some finger pointing by the Left trying to make something out of nothing and they are already backtracking.

  7. PoliBlog says:

    Plame Coverage
    Following on James of OTB’s discussion (here, here, and elsewhere)of the lack of coverage of the Plame story, it is noteworthy that a Google News search on “Plame” on shows a handful of entries, and WaPo and Slate are the…

  8. Valerie Plame
    Phil Carter has some news and analysis from earlier regarding the Bob Novak article that reportedly blew Valerie Plame’s cover as a CIA operative because her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a critic of Bush administration policy. Kevin Mc…

  9. PoliBlog says:

    Comment Response
    Rather than respond in the comments section, here’s a response to some of the commentary on the Plame affair–aimed at JohnC mostly, but to a more general audience as well: If you read carefully what I have written you will…

  10. PoliBlog says:

    Comment Response
    Rather than respond in the comments section, here’s a response to some of the commentary on the Plame affair–aimed at JohnC mostly, but to a more general audience as well: If you read carefully what I have written you will…