Where’s The Press III

Slate‘s Timothy Noah explains the Question of the Day in, “Selling Sleaze: A User’s Guide – Ten ways to rationalize the publication of infidelity rumors.”

The Fourth Estate is not interested in petty gossip and unfounded rumors. We report on matters of high policy pertaining to the public interest. Consequently, the rumor of a sexual liaison between a certain presidential candidate and a female intern with the Associated Press wouldn’t ordinarily be the sort of thing we’d stoop to publish or broadcast. Sadly, however, overriding considerations compel us to share this information with the public:

1) It’s a press story. “Welcome to Reliable Sources, where we turn a critical lens on the media. I’m Howard Kurtz. Should the media report unsourced rumors about THAT WOMAN JOHN KERRY’S BEEN BANGING BEHIND TERESA’S BACK? How much coverage of a candidate’s private life is too much? Here to discuss this with us are Tom Rosenstiel and Bob Guccione.”

An imaginative new variation on this approach is to omit the ethics angle entirely and merely speculate about whether the press will report on the rumor, as if it were some other beast entirely from oneself.

2) It’s an Internet phenomenon. The people sharing rumors about John Kerry’s sex life by e-mail and on Weblogs constitute a vital new subculture—a new news medium, if you will, one that doesn’t play by the old rules. This cries out for sociological analysis.


10) Lighten up—it’s a humor piece! Never trust anyone who tries to justify himself this way.

By all means, read the rest.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    I only caught bits and pieces of Rush because I had to actually work for a change but he made an interesting point. It took the mainstream media 4 days to report on Clinton after Drudge outted him.

    I can’t help but think that news cycle is gonna get trimmed. The european papers are already all over it.

  2. Rodney Dill says:

    A pretty good piece. We don’t know what kind of story this will evolve into. Unless Kerry has perjures himself at some point over this it’s unlikely to be as negative as Clinton/Lewinski. It’s also not likely to have the same direct impact on his campaign as Gary Hart and Monkey Business.