Memo to ABC: Just run Gingrich interview!


The couple, no more. (AP Photo/John Duricka) (John Duricka/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

ABCNEWS suits determined it would be “unethical” to run the Marianne Gingrich interview so close to the South Carolina Primary, a curious decision, one insider argued, since the network has aggressively been reporting on other candidates.

It’s a curious decision regardless of how aggressively the network has been reporting on other candidates. It’s a curious decision regardless of how aggressively the network has been reporting on the Italian cruise ship accident. It’s a curious decision regardless of how aggressively the network has been reporting on SOPA.

Says an ABC source: “Generally we don’t post stories cheek by jowl with a primary like that to give people ample time to consume the story and respond to the story.”

The network’s apparent ethical qualms about publishing bombshells on the eve of an election have a lot of cousins in the publishing industry. Other outlets tie themselves in self-agonizing knots over the same question, all the time. Such ethicizing is noble, well-intentioned and misplaced.

Here’s how you decide when to run a story: Is it ready?

That’s it! That’s all you need to know. The consideration encompasses a few sub-considerations, including how well reported the story is, how it’s contextualized and, most importantly, whether the subject of the story has had an opportunity to respond to the story. According to the network source, ABC gave Newt Gingrich two days to respond to the allegations laid out by his ex-wife. That’s just right. (The Washington Post also has the story.)

Once you’ve checked off all the boxes, hit the “publish” button, even if that moment comes “cheek by jowl” with an electoral event. After all, if the story is true and fair and complete, withholding it till after an election is a far greater ethical lapse than publishing it beforehand. ABC will run its Marianne Gingrich interview tonight. Good move.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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