ABC Gets “Prostitution” Coverage Right


On The Washington Posts’ website this morning, columnist Erik Wemple writes about a case involving ABC News and an interview that the network’s Martha Raddatz had done with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Late last year, news reports had alleged that Menendez had paid for sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Wemple writes that during the interview “Raddatz discussed a number of topics with Menendez: immigration, Benghazi, Chuck Hagel. What she didn’t discuss was the prostitution story.” Some media watchdogs apparently criticized Raddatz for not broaching the alleged prostitution with Menendez.

So why didn’t she? Because, according to Wemple, the network simply didn’t have the evidence it needed to push the matter further. As Wemple writes, “The trail of facts depicts an admirable act of prosecutorial restraint on the part of ABC News. Since it didn’t get the goods — indeed, it appears that the goods may well have been ungettable – it kept its mouth shut.” In fact, on the ABC News website, Rhonda Schwartz, Brian Ross and Ned Berkowitz report on the questionable allegations against Menendez.

So why is all this noteworthy? For two reasons: First, it’s not often that I take the time to praise a journalist’s coverage and to applaud a professional for not falling for the temptation to grab the low hanging fruit. Second, in this day and age it’s rare that reporters don’t grab the low-hanging fruit. After all, allegations of sexual impropriety against a sitting U.S. Senator would surely get viewers to stay tuned to the evening news and would boost website traffic. Indeed, that ABC News and Raddatz didn’t cave to these passions is noteworthy in and of itself and is the epitome of an ethical choice.