Exegesis: The New Republic on the Times McCain Story

The New Republic exegesis on the internal divisions at the Times is up. The story is a walking chronology of what happened. Here’s what we learned:

  • The story began with a tip that Jim Rutenberg received in November, 2007.
  • Washington chief Dean Baquet assigned Stephen Labaton and Marilyn Thompson to the assignment; David Kirkpatrick later joined in.
  • John McCain made his phone call to Bill Keller in "early December."
  • Two staffers told Gabe Sherman that the Drudge Report stalled the story. "The fact that it ended up on Drudge pushed it into secrecy," said one. "The paper gets constipated on these things," said another.
  • In late December, Bill Keller told the story’s editor, Rebecca Corbett, that they were holding the piece.
  • Mr. Keller asked for additional reporting and a story that was aimed "less at personal matters and more at questions of Iseman’s lobbying and McCain’s legislative record." Dean Baquet remained an advocate for his reporters.
  • In mid-January, after three drafts of the piece had been written, Mr. Keller downgraded the status of the piece from a stand-alone investigation and filed it as apart of their "Long Run" series on presidential candidates.
  • McCain-beat reporter Marc Santora became so tired of playing a "pawn" in the negotiations between the campaign and the Times that he asked to be taken off the beat. He was gone by Jan. 10, a week after the New Hampshire primary.
  • Marilyn Thompson was frustrated by the delays on the piece and her last day at the paper is tomorrow.
  • Two McCain staffers called up TNR and asked them not to run the piece; on Feb. 19 Bill Keller wrote Gabe Sherman: "This sounds like a pointless exercise to me—speculating about reporting that may or may not result in an article. But if that’s what Special Correspondents of The New Republic do, speculate away. When we have something to say, we’ll say it in the paper."
  • Today, Feb. 21, both pieces ran.
Exegesis: The New Republic on the Times McCain Story