Dateline: Maureen Dowd’s boudoir
There’s a “Bethlehem” in New Hampshire, and a “Canaan”, and a “Lebanon”. But there is no Jerusalem, NH. Nevertheless, Jerusalem is where Maureen Dowd was when she filed her primary-night column on Hillary’s victory. Nothing wrong with that – except that The New York Times datelined the piece: “Derry, NH”. The Jerusalem Post, The New York Observer and Scott Johnson at Powerline all noticed:
The Times sprang to her defense, pointing out she had been in Derry earlier in the week, had used an assistant to provide the color at the Clinton HQ, and brushed off her use of a New Hampshire dateline.
“This is a complete invention, this controversy,” Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told The New York Observer, adding: “Datelines are kind of an anachronism. It’s a little bit of an affectation.”
This rang a bell with me. Nine years ago, I arrived at the US Senate to cover President Clinton’s impeachment trial for Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Canada’s National Post and sundry other non-US publications. The lady who ran the Senate press gallery informed me that because of the pressure of space they were having to ration seating for foreign correspondents and explained that the admittance card entitled me, if I recall correctly, to access the Senate for 20 minutes on alternate Wednesdays provided the guy from The Suva Times of Fiji wasn’t using it*.
She had a point. It was pretty crowded that first day. By the third day, when I showed up, the Senate lady was delighted to see me and offered me a choice of vacant banquettes. The Beltway insiders had decided the trial was a yawneroo and given up on it. You could have hunted buffalo on the wide open plains of the press gallery. At the time, The New York Times was running a front-page daily report by its grand panjandrum R W Apple Jr called “In The Chamber”. As he was “in the chamber”, I thought I’d go over and introduce myself. But, every morning, every afternoon, I looked around and never saw him.
As it transpired, he wasn’t “‘In The Chamber” at all, but back home watching the trial on TV. Some months later, Mr Apple conceded that it had occurred to him the title might not be the most appropriate, but by that stage the column had been running for a few days and it was “too late to change” and rename it “In The Rec Room”. Or perhaps the ethics bores at the Times were scrupulous enough to insist that a column called “In The Chamber” should at least be filed from somewhere vaguely chamber-like and had a bondage dungeon installed in the basement for Mr Apple. One accepts (and rather relishes) such low japes from the sleazier tabloids, but it all seems a bit cavalier for the world-class windbags of soi-disant journalistic integrity.
(*My colleague David Frum, who was supposed to be sharing my card, had no truck with this process, and just swanned around the Capitol hither and yon as if he owned the joint, joining Strom Thurmond for an intern inspection or Robert C Byrd in the Senatorial hot tub as the fancy took him. No security guard ever asked David if he had an admittance card to anything. If I were al-Qaeda, I’d sign him up immediately, if they haven’t already done so.)