And amid his roundup of the she said/she said, David Siders’s report also provides some astute observations about the potential political fallout for Whitman following Diaz’s accusations:

Her story, regardless of its veracity, is politically difficult for Whitman, who began courting the Latino vote as soon as she won the June primary.

It knocked the candidate off message for at least a day, and marked the first time since early in her primary contest – when she faced questions about her poor voting record – that the former eBay CEO has been so squarely on the defensive.

“This is really the first time since then that she hasn’t been able to control the message in the campaign,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at University of California, San Diego. “I think she’d rather not talk about immigration, and she certainly doesn’t want to talk about this.”

But for my money, the best report comes from the political team at the San Francisco Chronicle. Carla Marinucci, John Wildermuth, and Joe Garofoli treat the affair with just the right West Coast tone:

Startling accusations Wednesday that GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman had an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper for nine years have all the elements of a classic late-campaign “October surprise” - a sobbing victim, a media-savvy attorney, charges of hypocrisy and dirty tricks.

… It starred Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, a Democratic donor who is a controversial veteran of many highly publicized cases, surrounded by a battery of cameras in her office.

Snark aside, the Chronicle did do some admirable old media reporting—and let us know about it in the story. Even though they did not get any info out of them, the paper’s reporters went to the authorities to ask about the letter Whitman was supposed to have received.

Sarah Kim-Lee of the San Francisco regional office of the Social Security Administration would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the letter, saying such correspondence would be confidential.

And the paper’s team provided some nice context in a roundup of similar scandals and their outcomes:

Bernard Kerik: Withdrew his nomination as homeland security secretary in 2004 after it was revealed that his nanny was in the country illegally. He was later sent to prison because of false statements he made during the investigation.

Timothy Geithner: After being nominated as President Obama’s Treasury secretary in 2009, questions were raised about his family’s former housekeeper, whose immigration papers expired while she was working for Geithner. He was ultimately confirmed.

None of the papers exactly nailed it—readers are still left up in the air about the truth of Diaz’s allegations. In time we will know more. But in a short amount of time, the papers did what TMZ and Twitter and other blogs that simply posted competing statements or went on partisan rants yesterday did not: they told a story with a beginning, a middle, and, with an ending still on the way, some history, precedent, context, and fallout.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.