The former editor of the National Enquirer, David Perel, recently wrote a first-person account of how his publication chased the story of John Edwards, the adulterous presidential candidate and former senator from North Carolina. It’s a curious tale that was, as Perel describes it, “the perfect meshing of technology and psychology.”
The technology involved satellite imagery and live video between reporters and the newsroom. The psychology involved a profile of Edwards from an unidentified “mental health professional” who described Edwards as a narcissist who would conceal his affair with his mistress, Rielle Hunter, at all costs.
Perel remains coy about some aspects of the Enquirer’s reporting. He won’t say whether the newspaper had a hidden camera in the hotel room where Edwards secretly met Hunter and their baby in 2008. Perel also never discloses whether the Enquirer paid any of its sources in its reporting on Edwards’ affair — a questionable practice that most newspapers do not indulge in. He also does not discuss the Enquirer’s frequent use of anonymous sources.
Perel takes credit for exposing the affair to the world and criticizes other media for downplaying the Enquirer’s initial reports on Edwards’ infidelity. Fair enough.
Although the Enquirer was ultimately vindicated in its pursuit of the Edwards story, it is still routinely ignored. The newspaper has recently reported, for example, that Edwards plans to marry Hunter. It also reported that Todd Palin, the husband of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, had an affair with a massage therapist who has been arrested on prostitution charges.
The Todd Palin story has yet to appear in my daily newspaper, The News & Observer of Raleigh. I only know about it because John Robinson, editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, mentioned it on his blog.
I ask the same question that Robinson poses: Would Perel and others now suggest that legitimate newspapers, especially those in Alaska, and other media chase the Palin story because it’s in the Enquirer?