Pardon me if I am not ready to hand the Springfield News-Leader an investigative reporting award for its handling of today's examination of accusations that Republican Seventh District Congressional candidate Billy Long consorted with strippers and has indulged in racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior.
As I read the article, I began to wonder just how well News-Leader reporters and editors know their community or their jobs. Instead of actually searching for people who could have provided information without having been prepared by the Eckersley or Long campaigns, the News-Leader did little digging on its own and instead relied on witnesses spoon fed to them by the candidates.
Did any News-Leader reporter check with Springfield strippers (dancers, whatever) and see if they had ever danced at the Metropolitan Grill?
There is no indication from the article that the News-Leader checked with the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco (formerly Liquor Control) to determine if any complaints had ever been filed against the Metropolitan Grill. The types of actions described by Ms. Case could easily have led to a revocation or suspension of the business' liquor license. That type of documentation, if it exists, would have added an extra dimension to this story. If there is no documentation, that should be noted in fairness to the business.
There is also no indication that News-Leader reporters ever talked to any member of the so-called Metro Mafia. If there was anything to these accusations, the best approach is always to gather the evidence and then, if it proves to be substantive, confront the politician with documentation and affidavits. Otherwise, it turns into just another case of politicians making accusations against each other.
Sadly, there was never any real chance that a news organization could get to the bottom of this story. That is not the way journalism is done today. Instead of doing any real reporting, most journalists receive the news release, call to get the other side, post the story and call it a day.
Some of it is due to budget cutbacks; some can be traced to a 24-hour news cycle with constant demands for updates.
And sadly, this lack of digging is not limited to Billy Long and the stripper saga. For instance, a Google News search shows that only blogs have reported on Long's acceptance of campaign contributions from such firms as Halliburton and Exxon Mobil. While there is certainly nothing illegal about the contributions, they certainly stand at odds with Long's "Fed Up" persona that led to his primary victory. Not only has he not been questioned about this, but apparently the traditional media do not consider it to be important enough to address.
For the News-Leader, to have this type of spaghetti-thin journalism coming so soon after the departure of one of the best young political reporters working, Chad Livengood, is particularly disappointing. Today's long (no pun intended) story offers much titillation and stokes the fires of controversy, but leaves the reader with doubts about everyone involved in the story, something a much more thorough and professional investigation would have avoided.