Not So Secret?

Now that Joe Strupp had a scoop that seemed cool, it appears that this is generally a well-reported (if not well-known fact). From a 1996 New Republic article by Bill Powers, now of National Journal:

“Between 1992 and 1996, the Times news department had pursued Clinton ethics stories quite aggressively, particularly Whitewater. The Times’s team of investigative reporters–Jeff Gerth, Stephen Labaton, Stephen Engelberg, Dean Baquet–worked hard to drum up enterprise stories, and broke many. But, during the campaign itself, the paper broke few enterprise stories on Whitewater and tended to underplay those it did run.

“On September 24, for instance, The Washington Post published a front-page story headlined: “fdic report says mrs. clinton’s work was used to deceive.” To a practiced reader of Washington scandal, that was an important headline, particularly in the way it suggested that an arm of the government–not just some reporter and her sources–was implicating the First Lady in shenanigans. The Post’s judgment call was routine. A story like this–a straightforward ‘day’ story–based on a publicly issued government report with obvious newsworthy content, is the sort of thing to which leading newspapers automatically give prominent play. But the early editions of the Times didn’t carry the story. It did appear in later editions, though. What happened is an example of the sort of news management that occurs routinely, but of which readers are largely unaware. Every night, after the first edition of each paper is printed, the editors of the Times and the Post fax each other their front pages for the next day, and then revisit their news judgments. Sometimes they change the story mix on their own front pages, or scramble to play catch-up on an entirely missed story, which can be inserted in later editions. In this case, Times editors saw that the Post had not only run the fdic story, but put it out front. The Times apparently rushed its own version into print. It ran on page A-18 of later editions, under the somewhat less sizzling headline, ‘Mrs. Clinton is linked to payments in deal under investigation.’ The byline on the story was Jeff Gerth, the Times reporter who broke the Whitewater story in 1992.”