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Op-ed column: Spitzer coverage enabled newspapers to define themselves

Op-ed column: Spitzer coverage enabled newspapers to define themselves

A former Gazette intern stopped in to say hello the other day, and was positively vibrating with exc

A former Gazette intern stopped in to say hello the other day, and was positively vibrating with excitement over her role in covering the flameout of Eliot Spitzer.

She’s still a student in New York City and has been interning with one of the city’s tabloids. For a high-adrenaline, low-introspection, 100-mile-an-hour newspaper experience, a New York City tab in pursuit of a high-profile sex scandal is the place to be. And if you’re an intern assigned to stake out one entrance of the apartment building that’s home to the LUV GUV’S HOOKER BOOKER, imagine the rush.

Never mind that a day on the sidewalk can at best produce the chance for one shouted question and a photo of THE QUEEN OF TARTS hustling to a car. If you get to shout the question and your competitor doesn’t, if it’s your photographer that captures the shot, you’ve won. You haven’t shed much light on anything but you’ve scored one on your rivals.

(A sometimes unseemly side to newspaper life is that when a big story is feeding the energy of a newsroom, it can take on an upbeat, almost festive atmosphere, even if the events are negative. This isn’t true of truly tragic stories where writers are interviewing people who have confronted death and personal loss. But, for better or worse, it is true when the story is about the self-inflicted fall of a politician.)

Readers of this column may remember that I value distinct voices among newspapers. Individual newspapers can ­— should — have their own character. It’s hard to imagine a more striking example of the different characters of newspapers than the coverage of the Spitzer scandal.

The front pages of New York’s Daily News and Post embraced the lurid and outrageous elements of the Spitzer story. At The Gazette, we adopted a graver tone, focusing on the downfall of an individual and the historic collapse of an administration.

Granted, it wasn’t possible for any paper to tell the story of a self-styled crusader snared in a prostitution ring without the lurid creeping in. But headlines and photos set the tone and the balance of the coverage reveals the character of the publication.

For images of personal crisis and stories of a government trying to pick up the pieces, come to The Gazette. For semi-nude “glamour” photos of the accused prostitute, go to the tabloids.

Naturally I favor the Gazette’s approach and believe that if you read only one paper, you will be better served by our coverage. But I can appreciate the spectacle of a tabloid in full chase. And I’m glad that in an era of fewer newspapers, readers can still find diverse voices and distinct personalities on the newsstands.

Blog on

On another topic, The Gazette’s humble portion of the blogosphere continues to grow and we hope to keep adding to our lineup of contributors.

Carl Strock and his reliably vocal tribe of readers have begun conversing at the Strock Freestyle blog on dailygazette.com. And reporter Sara Foss introduced Foss Forward, a place to write about those things you do when you’re not working: watching sports, seeing movies, reading books.

We will soon introduce the first of our community blogs, in which real world people share their experiences on anything from community service to tips on green living. We will continue to add blogs and welcome suggestions on new contributions from the community. As a general guideline, we are looking for bloggers to write about topics of general public interest, but they don’t need to be heavyweight policy wonks.

Blogs need to be lively and fresh, which means frequent updates and a willingness to engage readers who comment.

Those comments, by the way, are an essential part of the experience and we encourage readers to check out the various blogs and to become active participants. Anybody with suggestions should contact me.

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