I didn’t understand why a denial of February allegations of an affair with Kerry was on the top ten at Blogdex until I got well into the article. It’s written by Alex Polier, the young journalist who was falsely said to have had an affair with Kerry, and she doesn’t just write her version of the story, she investigates how the rumour was spread. Some important journalists and politicians spread it without knowing whether it was true or not:
‚ÄúI regret it,‚Äù he says now. ‚ÄúI read it in the paper, I heard it gossiped about, but I didn‚Äôt do anything like reporting. I joked about it on the Internet in a way I would at dinner. Then I learned the Net is like print, not like dinner.‚Äù (David Frum, qtd by Polier)
But further back, the rumour wasn’t even started by any individual. A blogger flippantly claimed that an affair between Kerry and an intern would be leaked next week, and journalists followed up by searching until they found the most likely intern, without bothering to check whether there was any evidence of an actual affair.
It was becoming clearer: No single person had to have engineered this. First came a rumor about Kerry, then a small-time blogger wrote about it, and his posting was read by journalists. They started looking into it, a detail that was picked up by Drudge‚Äîwho, post-Monica, is taken seriously by other sites like Wonkette, which no political reporter can ignore. I was getting a better education in 21st-century reporting than I had gotten at Columbia J-school. (Polier, page 5)
Polier blames the internet for the speed with which the rumour took root: “I am struck by the pitiful state of political reporting, which is dominated by the unholy alliance of opposition research and its latest tool, the Internet.” Perhaps she’s right. Maybe it spread faster. With less research. Good and bad.