By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A WashPost story sheds new light on big media’s failure to expose George Santos

Sarah Ellison of The Washington Post (free link) has a terrific story on The North Shore Leader, the Long Island weekly that broke parts of the George Santos story several weeks before the election only to be ignored by larger media outlets. I want to focus on this astonishing section:

Despite a well-heeled and well-connected readership — the Leader’s publisher says it counts among its subscribers Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jesse Watters and several senior people at Newsday, a once-mighty Long Island-based tabloid that has won 19 Pulitzers — no one followed its story before Election Day.

For obvious reasons, we can set Fox News aside. But one of the big questions all along has been why Newsday didn’t follow up. Now we know, at least according to the Leader, that “several senior people at Newsday” are among its readers. Assuming they saw the Leader’s coverage, which included a hard-hitting news story as well as a withering editorial endorsing Santos’ Democratic opponent, then there is no excuse for Newsday’s failure to dive in. Not to let The New York Times off the hook, either — though it is primarily a national and international newspaper, it does purport to cover the New York metro area. Yes, it’s the Times that finally exposed Santos as the fraud that he is, but it’s a little late.

I’ve seen a number of observers try to fit this square peg into the round hole of the ongoing local news crisis. Frankly, this strikes me as having more to do with journalistic sloth and arrogance, which have always been with us.

Finally, I talked with the USA Today podcast “Five Things” about the media and political breakdown that led to Santos’ winning a congressional seat without anyone other than the Leader holding him up to any scrutiny. You can listen here.


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  1. Lex

    Sloth and arrogance are right. Larger papers as a general rule are reluctant to follow up on exclusives by smaller ones, for the reasons you mention. (Another issue is that independently confirming another outlet’s exclusive often takes time, but I don’t think that’s relevant in this case.) And when they do, they often don’t credit the outlet that broke the story. I think the Times and Newsday really screwed up here.

  2. terrykelliher

    Great interview!

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone Get Outlook for Android ________________________________

  3. Gary Susman

    Still unanswered: Why didn’t Zimmerman’s campaign and the DCCC pick up on the Leader’s reporting and dig deeper? Zimmerman’s quotes in the WaPo article suggest he was aware of the Leader’s coverage, and his own campaign’s opposition research book on Santos did note some questionable financial issues re Santos’s purported real estate holdings and philanthropy. Newsday and the NYT aren’t the only fact-finders who dropped the ball here. There’s a lot of “sloth and arrogance” beyond those displayed by the region’s big media outlets.

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