You’ve Got E-Mail

One obvious drawback of the otherwise admirable exercise of journalistic restraint: it can cause outlets to lose scoops.

To wit, the revelation that The State, the primary newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina, had obtained the cringetastic e-mail exchange between Mark “Dont’ Cry For Me” Sanford and his Argentine paramour, “Maria,” long before the news of the affair broke yesterday. As in: December.

The paper hadn’t “determined they were authentic,” the paper’s political editor, Leroy Champan, tells The New York Times, so they held them.

It took a second tip — this time that the governor was on an airplane from Argentina — for the paper to put together the story.

Before that, reporters and editors at The State were aware of the possibility that Mr. Sanford was having an affair. But despite the governor’s sometimes odd behavior, the whiff of adultery had not followed him, and reporters remained skeptical.

“Because he had not had a reputation for being a philanderer, we questioned its authenticity,” Mr. Chapman said.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.