How the <em>Observer</em> Reported on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

As disclosed in the story, Jared Kushner is the publisher of the New York Observer. His wife is Ivanka Trump, and

As disclosed in the story, Jared Kushner is the publisher of the New York Observer. His wife is Ivanka Trump, and his father-in-law is Donald Trump. Given that family relationship, the Observer took great care to ensure fair, unbiased journalism throughout the reporting and editing of this story. 

A couple of facts related to the methods used in reporting this story:

  • The New York Observer began reporting this story in late June 2013, two months before Mr. Trump was sued by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The Observer spoke to more than 25 sources, in person, on the phone and via email, during the nearly eight months we’ve been reporting this story.
  • The reporter originally assigned to this story contacted Mr. Schneiderman’s communications director, Damien LaVera, shortly thereafter. They had a conversation that, for whatever reason, spooked the reporter. Given his plans to attend law school someday, this reporter resigned from this assignment.
  • At that point, the Observer’s editor in chief, Ken Kurson, called Mr. LaVera to tell him that the story would be moving forward with a new reporter, who would be calling to learn of Mr. Schneiderman’s achievements, hopefully in Mr. Schneiderman’s own words, and also to present questions that would surely arise from those who were less pleased with Mr. Schneiderman’s performance. 
  • On Jan. 28, Mr. LaVera spoke at length to Michael Craig, the reporter who wrote this story. Mr. LaVera complained about the direction he assumed the story was taking from the nature of Mr. Craig’s questions. “Other than dialing up Mr. Kushner’s family benefit, where does this break new ground?” Mr. LaVera asked Mr. Craig, repeatedly saying, “What’s the motivation for this story?” before ending the call by saying, “I apologize that this was more of a contentious call than it needed to be.”
  • Mr. LaVera complained many times about how long the story was taking to put to bed. It has been the Observer’s experience that most subjects prefer a story that is reported over a lengthy period of time, which allows for a more complete picture, but Mr. LaVera is certainly entitled to his opinion.
  • Mr. LaVera communicated with the Observer many times via phone and email, both for attribution and off the record; he is an experienced communications professional, having served in the office of public affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy before joining Mr. Schneiderman’s team. 
  • The Observer quoted Mr. LaVera only when expressly permitted to do so or when no requests to speak off the record were made. This is a shame, because Mr. LaVera is capable of great color when speaking off the record. The Observer has erred on the side of gentlemanliness, in some instances even granting Mr. LaVera the privilege of declining to publish remarks made before he asked that they be kept off the record. 
  • The day before this story went to press, someone from Mr. Schneiderman’s press operation apparently told another publication, “Donald Trump ordered up a hit piece in his son-in-law’s newspaper to retaliate against Schneiderman for bringing a lawsuit against him.” Bullshit. The notion that Mr. Trump can “order” the Observer to publish or not publish a story is ludicrous. All newspapers have a publisher. Most publishers have a father-in-law. The fact that the Observer’s publisher’s father-in-law happens to be well known—and appears to have gotten inside the attorney general’s head—had no bearing on this story or on any other story in the Observer. If the anonymous press officer who made that accusation has any evidence that this story was “ordered up” by Mr. Trump, we’d like to see it. 
  • The Observer’s many attempts to speak to Mr. Schneiderman directly for this story over several months were unsuccessful. In one instance, an Observer reporter with no knowledge of this story’s existence asked an unrelated question of the attorney general at a press conference. Although the attorney general answered the question without incident, the attorney general’s public affairs staff took the asking of the question as evidence of a coordinated attack on Mr. Schneiderman. That was not the case.
  • Mr. LaVera put the matter to bed with impressive brio: “I don’t mean to be a dick, but if it’s going to be something where we have a fair shot to make a case, potentially I can put Eric on the phone with you.” That didn’t happen.
How the <em>Observer</em> Reported on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman