campaign desk

Rumor-mongering Is Wrong…Except When I Do It

Does NPR’s Ken Rudin see the irony here?
December 1, 2010

As Governor Paterson was embroiled in one scandal after the other this past February, Ken Rudin, the political director for NPR, wrote a blog post on about a journalist’s responsibility not to get carried away by “rumors and innuendo.” He wrote:

Meanwhile, Paterson spokesperson Marissa Shorenstein told the Associated Press that rumors about the governor’s personal behavior are “absolutely false” and that he will not resign. She said that the media have sunk to a new low by dealing in such rumors.

After the post went up, Rudin e-mailed it to Shorenstein. Two weeks later, after the Times published a story on the administration’s response to a domestic violence accusation against a top Paterson aide that put the governor on the ropes, he sent a follow-up note expressing his deepest sympathy for the pressure that she was presumably feeling:

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It seems like a very genuine exchange—which is why it feels so abrupt when Rudin writes back the next morning,

Of course, Rudin is doing the right thing here, by seeking to “confirm reports” before blasting them out on a blog like the rumor-mongers he chastised just the day before. That confirmation process makes up a lot of the job of a political reporter, obviously. And hey, maybe he does see the irony of this exchange: after all, he starts off that last e-mail with “Ugh.”

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner