And yet, The New York Times, presumably one of the best sources of journalism the U.S. has to offer, has opted to spend reporters’ time and newspaper ink on an utterly insignificant and petty topic: the four – count ’em, four! – traffic citations Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio has gotten, going back to 1997.
Part of the problem is the ease of collecting public documents and the hyper-pressure to reveal any detail about a candidate for office. (The Times has denied suggestions that the information came from a Democratic opposition research leak.) Even before Chinese hackers collected information on U.S. federal government employees, it was pretty easy for Web-savvy people to find all sorts of public, if relatively meaningless, information about individuals. And when one is vetting a presidential candidate or even just writing a profile of a political figure, due diligence dictates going through available documents, including personal financial disclosures, arrest records, real estate holdings and of course, voting and campaign finance records. The point is to look for violations or conflicts of interest. And if you find something newsworthy, you report it. The standard is not to report something – anything – just to prove you looked for it successfully.