Tuesday, October 26, 2010

News-Leader: Our reporters did a professional job on stripper story

The conduct of the Springfield News-Leader in its coverage of accusations concerning Republican Seventh District Congressional candidate Billy Long and strippers at the Metropolitan Grill has become a central issue late in the race.

It was brought up again Monday at a Bar Association forum in Springfield with Democratic candidate Scott Eckersley charging the News-Leader with "an attack job" on witnesses who claim Long cavorted with strippers at the Grill, and also made racist, sexist, and homophobic comments.

The forum heated up when a participant asked Eckersley what court-admissible evidence he had to support the claims of Jennifer Case, a waitress who has accused Billy Long of making inappropriate remarks and gambling while at the Metropolitan Grill. Case spoke about her accusations in an Eckersley campaign commercial.

Eckersley called the previous day's News-Leader article "an attack job."

In a press release Monday, he said the News-Leader behaved unethically. The release said reporter Wes Johnson asked Case's 18-year-old son, "Do you know how much trouble your mother is in?" and a photographer took pictures of Case after she asked him to stop. The release quotes her as saying she told reporters that she saw strippers with Long. On Friday, Case had answered no when a reporter asked whether she had ever seen Long with strippers in the room.

Long didn't respond to the criticism at the forum until Eckersley mentioned that a Joplin news outlet had published Case's story. Long pointed out that the news outlet was The Fuse Joplin, a blog.

News-Leader Executive Editor David Stoeffler said he reviewed a tape of the interview with Case, and "it was a professional interview" conducted at a local restaurant.

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