‘Times’ Editor Keller: Gawker, Drudge, ‘N.Y. Post’ ‘Wallowing’ in Paterson Report Speculation

By: E&P Staff

Speculation about just what The New York Times is or is not about to report on New York Gov. David Paterson hit the pages of the newspaper itself this weekend with it public editor weighing in on the hot topic.

In the 10 days since the first reports arose that the Times was working on a “major” story on Paterson, there’s been a fevered back-and-forth in the state’s political and chattering classes about what the paper is trying to dig up — and, most recently, whether it should at least reveal whether it is really looking into some of the salacious rumors being bandied about.

In a bipartisan attack on the Times, Paterson — a Democrat facing a tough campaign for the nomination after coming into the office following Elliot Spitzer’s resignation in a sex scandal – and a Republican pursuing his party’s nomination, Rick Lazio, have both called on the Times to either disclose what it is working on, deny the mushrooming rumors, or print the story.

Lazio sent an open letter to Times Executive Editor Bill Keller condemning the “psychological warfare” on Paterson. And in his Sunday column, Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt said Paterson’s chief of staff, Lawrence Schwartz, wrote to ask for an investigation of “the propriety of the paper’s actions and decisions that allowed this sorry set of events to unfold.”

For his part, Keller told Hoyt addressing the rumors would do more harm than good.

“For the Times to issue a statement saying, ‘We are not investigating rumors about the sex life or drug use or financial shenanigans of Public Figure X’ doesn’t clear the good name of Public Figure X. It simply announces that we’ve heard the rumors and for some reason chose not to look into them,” he said.

The Times, like other new organizations, rarely tips what it is working on because of competition, Keller added.

Everybody commenting has an agenda, Keller suggested. Paterson’s opponents “are letting innuendo do their dirty work for them,” while his supporters seek to “neutralize any negative material” by portraying it as the product of “an unsavory muckraking exercise.”

“Gawker and the Drudge Report and The New York Post are wallowing in all of this because that’s what they do,” he added.

In his column, Hoyt comes down on the side of the newspaper?s silence.

“It could have denied the Paterson rumors,” he wrote. “But what if the next time it really was looking into a scandal involving a public figure? Silence then would speak volumes. The demands for comment on work in progress could be limitless.”

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