It’s a story in the Ouachita Citizen of West Monroe, La., based on video showing the town’s congressman, freshman Rep. Vance McAllister (R), “passionately kissing and embracing a member of his congressional staff” — extramaritally. That might not be too much of a problem under some circumstances, but the Citizen reported that McAllister “campaigned for office last fall as a devout Christian and devoted husband and father.” The video captures a scene in McAllister’s district office in Monroe on Dec. 23.
The bylines on the piece belong to Zach Parker, a 26-year-old news editor, and Sam Hanna Jr., who is the newspaper’s publisher-cum-investigative reporter. (The Hanna family also owns and operates two other Louisiana newspapers.) The voicemail message at the weekly Ouachita Citizen lists options for five employees, though Parker says the paper is up to six at this point. Circulation is 5,200.* This community paper has been a “fixture” in Ouachita Parish, according to its Web site, “since John Marion ‘Jack’ Reighney Sr. began publishing the West Monroe Churchman in 1924.”
In a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Parker says he couldn’t get into too many details about the McAllister scoop, out of a “need to protect our source on this.” That said, Parker knows what the congressman looks like and was familiar with the office in the video — “it’s the same office that I’ve photographed,” he says. So there wasn’t much trouble in authenticating the video. Nor has McAllister disputed it, issuing a statement seeking “forgiveness.” As for impact, Parker reports a deluge of e-mails and phone calls, plus a Web site that’s registering “thousands of hits per minute.” And those hits aren’t going to the piece on the pediatric symposium at St. Francis Medical Center.
Just how did the Ouachita Citizen end up with the goods? Parker wouldn’t get too specific, other than to say his newspaper is a good destination for such material. “We have a reputation for not holding back,” he says.
Confirmed: Not only did the Citizen identify the congressional staffer that McAllister was reportedly smooching, it included her full address except for her Zip code. When asked why such details were necessary, Parker said that the newspaper was “trying to be thorough.”
*A previous version of this piece, using information provided by a Ouachita Citizen staffer, said that circulation didn’t exceed 5,000.