The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, August 12, 2002  

Washington Post Publishes “Gossip” on “A Wing and a Prayer”

Welcome back to Journalism 101. Three days ago we announced a pop quiz on standards of journalistic integrity in which we asked readers to explain in no more than 500 words whether they would have published a report by an unidentified gossip columnist (“Gossip A”) had they been the columnist’s editor at the place of employment (“Newspaper X”). (For details about the quiz, direct yourselves here.)

Now, obviously, the correct answer to the hypothetical presented to the class is NO. As in, “No, I would not have published the piece written by Gossip A.” Although it is conceivable, albeit far-fetched, that a case could be made in favor of publishing Gossip A’s minor scribble, not one person submitting an essay could do so.

To be honest, this quiz was a give-away intended to help everyone raise his grade point average.

After all, proponents of publishing Gossip A’s column had virtually nothing to go on, what with the obvious political motives of at least two, and arguably all three of the gossips; the spotty track record of Gossip A and Gossip C (Gossip B being so insignificant a player in “the business” as to not warrant any concern); the blatant political agenda of the new girlfriend of Gossip A and her transparent influence on his writing since the relationship began; the apparently, to him at least, embarrassing lack of a girlfriend by Gossip C; the almost complete absence of any on-the-record sources; and the virtually irrefutable denial of the spokesman for the subjects of the gossips’ smear.

For the record, as responsible journalists often say, Gossip A from the original quiz is Lloyd Grove. His employer, “Newspaper X,” is the Washington Post. This is the article in question. Gossip B is Roger Friedman. His employer, “Web Site Y,” is And Gossip C is the psychologically tortured and sexually ambiguous Matt Drudge of the unselfconsciously eponymous Drudge Report, also known as “Web Site Z.”

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