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February 19th, 2010
09:20 AM ET

Media play fast, loose with Times' Paterson story

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Brent Cunningham
Special to CNN

"Dewey Defeats Truman," "Kerry's Choice: Dem Picks Gephardt," and, now, "Looming Paterson Scandal Involves Affair with N.Y. Woman" - if and when The New York Times reports it. Or not.

In case you missed it (you'd be lucky if you did), more than two weeks of feverish press speculation about a coming "bombshell" story in the Times culminated Wednesday when the Times published the piece - which was about New York Gov. David A. Paterson's driver-turned-top aide, not the governor himself - and it contained none of the salacious sexual and drug-related gossip that news outlets from Gawker to The Associated Press had been tittering (and tweeting) about. (For examples of said tittering, go here, here and here.)

Speed has always been a source of trouble for journalism, even when news had cycles calibrated to days, not seconds, and it was simply a matter of competitive pressure - an honorable if largely obsolete journalistic tradition that over the years has fueled some excellent work.

But the speed problem on display in the Paterson debacle wasn't the kind of competitive haste that produced the infamous Dewey headline. Rather, it is the product of an information culture where electronic publishing is easy and too often disconnected from the journalistic checks and balances created to prevent gaffes.

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Filed under: New York Times
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