Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Didja Hear The One About...

The insanity of New York politics -- which began with Eliot Spitzer's resignation over prostitution two years ago, continued with the bumpy administration of David Paterson, and reached one peak last summer with a state Senate coup -- entered a new phase in the last few days.

For at least a week, a rumor has paralyzed all parts of the state that The New York Times is working on a story with such salacious details that overlap Paterson's private life and public duties that it would force the governor to resign.

But, the real variable here is the world of new media: Rumors like this -- "such-and-such paper is getting ready to print 'X' about so-and-so" have been around forever. But, now the rumors make blogs and even Twitter. Just the speculation on the rumor becomes the story itself.

And today, the pervasiveness of the rumors made the covers of the New York Post and the Daily News. Of course, this has been building for a while. The Post caught Paterson getting very friendly with a woman-not-his-wife in New Jersey last month. There's also a major gossip story that one of the state troopers assigned to guard him accidentally walked on him and another woman in a compromising situation in the Executive Mansion in Albany. Paterson singled out some of our reporting yesterday in a major rant as we followed up. Thus, the breakout coverage today -- all founded on a "story" that may or may not even exist. (Of course, as one non-mainstream source points out, there are actually far more valid reasons for Paterson to step down -- such as the slime involved in his politically-decided selection of a "racino" bid for the Aqueduct track.)

Welcome to Meta-Media world, where the tabloids examine the coverage that the quintessential broadsheet hasn't revealed. In many respects, this is just the latest major leap since the brave new world Matt Drudge helped create in 1998 when he learned that Newsweek had killed a story about a certain president and a certain White House intern.

But when information is now spread at the "speed" of 140 characters a post, the barrier between news, speculation, tips and gossip effectively disappears. And a politician ends up helping to make the story that didn't really exist before he "responded" to it.


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