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Journalistic standards?

February 11, 2010 |  5:27 pm

John Edwards 240 This newspaper, along with much of the mainstream media, has been hammered for ignoring the National Enquirer's reporting about an affair liberal Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was allegedly having during the campaign with his videographer. Those allegations proved to be true, and Edwards' political career is now a historical footnote, which should make his personal life a nonissue, right?

Or not. Thursday, The Times' website is carrying a story (and a video!) from its corporate sibling, KTLA, reporting on the Enquirer's latest Edwards scoop. "If you're into scandals, former Sen. John Edwards is the gift that keeps on giving," KTLA's Victoria Recaño says as she introduces the video piece. The station's reporter, Cher Calvin, then is shown interviewing ... not Edwards or anyone else involved in the scoop but the Enquirer scribe who wrote it (who goes on to speculate about the cost of Edwards' divorce and the outcome of a federal investigation into whether Edwards used campaign funds improperly). So, I guess that means the Enquirer is a reliable source now, huh?

Hillary and BillWild speculation, however, isn't solely the province of supermarket tabloids and the media outlets who quote them. Witness the initial report on ABCNews.com by Emily Friedman about former President Clinton's hospitalization. ABC may have broken the story about Clinton being rushed to the hospital with chest pains; if it did, my hat's off to them. But there's no excuse for Friedman including this statement in one of her first dispatches:

Sources on Capital (sic) Hill tell ABC News that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seen leaving the Oval Office a short time ago and did not seem "too concerned" or "in a rush."

Make that, unidentified sources with mind-reading capabilities. I won't even pretend to know what Friedman was trying to get across, but there are at least two equally valid ways to read that sentence: The former president's medical problems weren't life-threatening, or his wife couldn't care less what happens to him. As it happened, Clinton underwent surgery to prop open a coronary artery, which seems like a pretty serious procedure. And the secretary of State may not, in fact, have been blithely unconcerned about her notoriously unfaithful husband's condition. Here's what Friedman wrote in a later version of the story:

Sources on Capitol Hill tell ABC News that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seen leaving the Oval Office around the same time that Clinton had been hospitalized. Sources told ABC News that Secretary Clinton was "very concerned when told about the President, given his heart history" and that it made everyone "very nervous."

The ABC News website offered no explanation for or acknowledgment of the change in its reporting. Here's a link to the story, in case you'd like to see the latest insight from ABC News about Hillary Clinton's frame of mind.

Top photo of Elizabeth and John Edwards: AP Photo / Michael Dwyer. Bottom photo of Hillary and Bill Clinton: EPA / Andrew Theodorakis / Pool

-- Jon Healey

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