Jewish Journal senior editor Howard Blume has an interesting media piece on the refusal of reporters at the Daily News and LA Weekly to pursue long-rumored details about Mayor Hahn's separation from his wife. DN Managing Editor Ron Kaye wanted to write about the rumors, but gave in to objections — "If my best reporters, whom I respect deeply, wonít do it, itís probably the wrong thing to do.Ē [* Update: Rick Orlov and Beth Barrett are mentioned in the story, but Blume let me know that Orlov says he was not approached to chase the rumors.] Kaye still thinks it's a story, though, and seems to suggest it's elitist if journalists know but don't spread personal gossip. Blume got less out of the LA Weekly, where the editors wouldn't talk to him [not surprising, I guess], and he couldn't find out how far the Times had looked into it. It's a safe bet, though, that most City Hall bureaus have discussed whether to chase the reports. As far as I know, until this past week the unproven claim was only reported by syndicated columnist Susan Estrich, and then only briefly on her blog before she yanked her much-derided emails to the Times' Michael Kinsley.
Blume frames it all in the context of Jewish law that warns against gossiping, and admits his wife didn't want him to write the story at all. [There apparently was a bit of pre-publication stewing at the Journal too.] He advocates a middle, less-Talmudic course. Blume says responsible journalists should check out nearly all rumors that might reflect on a politician, but spike the findings if they are not newsworthy. He argues, for instance, that the Times was completely right to investigate the groping allegations about new politician Arnold Schwarzenegger during the 2003 recall. [I agree.] In that case, he argues, it would have been irresponsible to hold what the paper learned until after the election.
Blume says upfront that he won't print the Hahn rumor, and I won't either. Three reasons for me: 1) The claim is neither scandalous nor a reflection on Hahn as a mayor or a person. So why not report it? 2) If Hahn and his estranged wife don't choose to talk about it, it's none of the public's business, like most (but not all) purely family matters. And 3) despite hearing it repeated many times in the past year, I've no idea if it's true. Might be, might not be. Some blogs have gotten into it this weekend, but they only know what the rumor is, not whether it's accurate. Tony Castro, managing editor of the Los Angeles Independent, goes at it in a kind of underhanded way in his March 30 issue. He conjures up columns about the wives of both mayoral candidates, and at the end of his Monica Hahn piece he short-hands the Estrich disclosure as if it were true (rather than as unsubstantiated gossip.) Reading it, I can't tell if Castro thought he was being sly, or was just sloppily imprecise.
Non-gossip: The Daily News has a story on union leaders questioning whether Miguel Contreras, the county's labor chief, did as much for Hahn in the primary as he promised...Former mayor Richard Riordan broke his collarbone in a fall from his bike on Pacific Coast Highway...Matt Welch gets the LAT's Outside the Tent space this week, and complains about the way the Times writes about gentrification. The voting on last week's rejection of John Ziegler's piece went 64% against Opinion editor Bob Sipchen, but then Ziegler does have a forum on ratings leader KFI.
** Reply: From LA Weekly news editor Alan Mittelstaedt, who supervises the paper's coverage of the mayoral race: "It simply is not true that any L.A. Weekly reporters have refused to pursue a line of questioning or potential story pertaining in any way to the mayor's race. As a general policy, we do not discuss stories we may or may not be working on, and the issue at hand is no exception."