I invited him to have an email “sit down” to discuss this story that will not die. I wanted to further the story that his newspaper was working on two years ago that prompted the testy email exchange between him and Mrs. Palin about why the theories on Trig Palin’s birth would not go away. I saw this as an opportunity to explain how and why newspapers might view, and treat, information differently from bloggers.
Mr. Dougherty graciously declined my invitation. He said that the story of persistent rumors does not interest him any more than President Obama’s birth certificate conspiracy. I pressed the point that his paper was closer to the Palin story due to his earlier efforts to lay it to rest. And of course due the Anchorage Daily News’ geographical proximity and role as the paper of record for Alaska and its government.
Still, he declined my offer. Our emails have been pleasant and polite. And I accepted his answer.
But I would not be who I am if I did not ask one further question. Could Mr. Dougherty confirm the oft repeated statement that Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson brought an attorney with her to an interview at the Anchorage Daily News?
He provided me with this answer, as well as permission to paste it directly into this post:
No, that's a myth. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson never came to the Daily News for an interview. As far as I know, she has never been near the ADN building. In the telephone interview or interviews we had with her (I don't recall whether it was one or more than one), there was no mention of her having an attorney or thinking about involving one, nor was there ever any explicit or implied threat of legal action against the newspaper, which would have immediately involved me personally. It's a complete invention that doesn't appear to have ever been attributed to named, knowledgeable source.
I thank Mr. Dougherty for taking the time to clarify this point.
In our emails, Mr. Dougherty referred me to his blog page for further reading on his coverage about the Daily News’ coverage of the Trig controversy at the time.
Scrolling down a bit, you can find a list of posts dated around January 13, 2009, addressing the rumors, the story and of course the recap of Mr. Dougherty's exchange with the then governor.
But in particular, I found this post interesting. In it, Mr. Dougherty explains to another Alaskan journalist why he would not pursue the Trig story:
I think most competent journalists would recognize "the persistence of bizarre claims surrounding the birth of any governor's son" as the basis of a potentially interesting story. Most competent journalists would also understand that the story doesn't work if it can't show that the claims are false. For the purpose of a newspaper story, it's only a "bizarre conspiracy theory" if we can demonstrate that it's untrue, which is why we wanted to document the truth. Up until now, we have had no interest in proving to the real doubters that Trig was indeed Sarah Palin's baby.
I don’t understand this part: Most competent journalists would also understand that the story doesn't work if it can't show that the claims are false.
I think a story about why a story will not die is a valid story. It involves stating the rumors, interviewing one or two people who persist in stating the rumors are true, asking for their proof if they have it, and then interviewing, indeed even giving the last word to, in this case, Mrs. Palin, for her side of the story. When she refused to cooperate, that, in this competent journalist’s view, was indeed part of the story. Or perhaps I’m just incompetent.
Is it true that journalists only report a story if they could prove that it is not true? What if a reporter ended up learning that the claims were true? Or in the end had to report that they could not, in fact, debunk the rumors, no matter how hard they tried?
And while I can fully appreciate someone not wishing to learn that something truly bizarre has taken place, no less in the office of the governor, I don’t believe it is up to a journalist to avoid a story because it won’t prove what he or she wants it to prove, which is that the rumors are baseless.
As I’ve said before, I can truly see both sides of this story - and I could envision two possible outcomes. And since there is no clear, consistent, public account of the birth of Trig Palin, it is understandable why bloggers persist in trying to learn the truth. And it is apparent to me why a newspaper of record, or any reputable medium, wants solid, factual proof in order to report a story.
But there is, in my opinion, still a story here about why the story won’t go away. Especially now in view of the fact that a sitting governor was able to conceal the paternity of his “love child” for ten years from his family and the public. Ten years! How many medical professionals, government officials, and friends of both Mr. Schwarzennegger and his personal employee knew and kept it quiet?
I will leave off with a link to this article in MediaMatters that Mr. Dougherty also posts in his blog.
The crux of the article is that Mrs. Palin distorted the truth about the Trig stories by blaming the MSM for running with them when, in fact, they did not (author Eric Boehlert does a thorough job shooting her down and disproving her version of events.) If she could "make things up" about the media, could she make things up to the media? It is admirable that journalists and bloggers are trying to put the “bizarre conspiracy theory” to rest – whether it’s true, or not.
So I say to anyone out there listening, as Andrew Sullivan, who thoroughly documented the provable Lies of Sarah Palin said so succinctly to John McCain’s campaign manager, Steve Schmidt: Prove it.