Muckraker, schmuckraker

I finally sat down to read the Idaho Statesman's "investigative feature" on Sen. Larry Craig, which was published the day after news broke of his guilty plea in connection with a sex sting at a Minneapolis men's room. It was not much of a story -- and this came as no surprise to me. I am an editor and a dyed-in-the-wool stickler for journalistic ethics. So please bear with me if this topic is not your cup of tea.

The writer of the article, Statesman veteran Dan Popkey, details a long-running investigation the newspaper has poured money and manpower into. Their aim? To reveal that, despite decades of denial, Sen. Craig is in fact gay. Why? Um...because. Their mission? Not accomplished. Not even close. After interviewing about 300 people from Craig's past and present, all trails proved cold. In the end, the Statesman was scooped by Roll Call. And yet every cable news network last week featured interviews with the Statesman's managing editor and Popkey himself. Somehow the fact they were investigating the senator's sexuality at the same time we learned of his alleged homosexual behavior has linked them to the real story. Make no mistake: It does NOT link them to the real story.

Popkey got scooped. The investigation was a failure. The Statesman did nothing but re-hash the same rumors native Idahoans have been whispering since 1982, according to the article. I quickly grew tired of analysts applauding the Statesman for cautiously sitting on the story until an appropriate time. Translation: They "sat on the story" because had no real story to print, so therefore had nothing to be cautious about. Popkey's story uses anonymous sources who claim to have had "encounters" with Craig. In my estimation, unless you're Woodward and Bernstein attempting to uncover political corruption that reaches to the Oval Office, you need at least one source who is willing to go on the record.

There's too much wrong with the article to detail here, at least without boring people to tears. But find the article and read it for yourself. I might be missing something. If not, however, I would suggest the Statesman staff focus future investigations on civil corruption instead of sexual preference. True muckrakers must be turning in their graves.

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