Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Adam Nagourney responds. New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney, who yesterday exposed Stephanie Cutter of the John Kerry campaign as the author of an anti-Dean e-mail despite Cutter's demand that the contents of her message be reported as "background," has responded to Media Log's item on the flap.

Nagourney writes:

The Kerry people e-mailed me a copy of your item about my story.

Feel free to call or e-mail any time. I would have told you what I told Stephanie: I'm more than happy to let a campaign aide go off the record, or on background. But it's a two-way street: we've got to negotiate the rules in advance. This is pretty basic: I do this a dozen times a day with campaign officials.

But in my book, you can't fire off an e-mail and demand preemptively that it be taken on background and attributed to a "dem campaign," which is what Stephanie did. That is particularly true in a case where one campaign is ATTACKING the other. If other reporters want to agree to that, fine. But I don't think it's fair, and I'm not going to agree to those terms.

What made this case particularly striking was that this was an e-mail sent out to a BUNCH of reporters. And Stephanie was asking us to provide the Kerry campaign cover while she attacked the Dean campaign for the same thing that many of her colleagues were attacking Dean for on record. That doesn't strike me as right.

A couple of observations:

1. The scenario Nagourney describes is something I identified yesterday as one of the possible explanations. His e-mail to me confirms it, and I think he was justified in not going along with Cutter's request.

2. Readers increasingly are demanding transparency. I would have liked to see him stick in a sentence yesterday explaining this to everyone rather than leaving the average Times subscriber scratching her head.

Little People: the Salon interview. Salon has posted a long Q&A (sub. req.) with me on my book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes. The interviewer is Lisa Hedley, a documentarian and the mother of a girl with dwarfism.

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