The St. Petersburg Times

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The St. Petersburg Times explains why it didn’t run with the Rep. Mark Foley story last fall. An excerpt:

[W]hat we had was a set of emails between Foley and a teenager, who wouldn’t go on the record about how those emails made him feel. As we said in today’s paper, our policy is that we don’t make accusations against people using unnamed sources. And given the seriousness of what would be implied in a story, it was critical that we have complete confidence in our sourcing. After much discussion among top editors at the paper, we concluded that the information we had on Foley last November didn’t meet our standard for publication.

That’s a judgment call, and one that could go either way. Other news outlets apparently made the same call. Go read the whole explanation and decide for yourself. But in the course of explaining the decision, the editor writes:

The conversation in those emails was friendly chit-chat. Foley asked the boy about how he had come through Hurricane Katrina and about the boy’s upcoming birthday. In one of those emails, Foley casually asked the teen to send him a “pic” of himself.

I don’t know how you can read those emails and come to such an innocuous conclusion. Now in fairness to the paper they put two reporters on the story before deciding they didn’t have enough to publish. So maybe the editor didn’t consider it all that innocuous either.

The one thing the editor doesn’t describe the paper trying to do was talk to anyone overseeing the congressional page program. Given the leadership’s track record, a call from reporters might not have gotten much of a response. But given that we’re talking about minors here, it seems like a call that should have been made. Which makes me wonder–did any news outlets contact the page program when these emails started surfacing last fall? Anyone get a response?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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