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I read every word of your three lengthy pieces concerning muckraker Murray Waas’ own muck. I’m nearly 30 years a journalist and enjoy good, inside-the-business doo-doo slinging. And I followed Waas down some rabbit holes months ago—down where, as you detailed, the dog waste was stashed—when he was trying to dissuade you from writing about him and the rest of us from granting you any credibility. Waas got sympathetic play from the folks at Huffington Post and Daily Kos in his cri de coeur over the unfairness of it all before any of it even came out.
Last night, upon re-reading his lengthy post on Huffington’s blog of last December, about the City Paper’s thugs (which, admittedly, I found somewhat compelling at the time), I actually heard treacly violins in my head as I reached the ending this second time.
I’ve read elsewhere a complaint about this package of stories being a “bizarre deployment of…editorial resources” by the City Paper. I agree with that, but from another angle. Seems to me you went enough extra miles to reach the moon, just to be extra thorough and extra accurate with someone who seems to be a threateningly libel-litigious journalist. (Ouch.)
And, just for the record: I don’t know Murray Waas, but I want to say here, publicly, that, having read all this, I, Terry Carter, think Waas is a good person. Indeed, a fine and great person. I want him to know that. I want him to believe that. I do not want him to think that I have crossed him in any way. And he should know that I never will. No siree, not me. Not now.
I am curious whether anyone at Daily Kos or the Huffington Post will read your stories and maybe revisit the matter. Probably not, given the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” worldview that can infect otherwise laudable journalistic enterprises that have viewpoint and attitude.
The Waas in your series of articles is the Waas I met when I was an intern in 1995. I was working on an article for Forbes MediaCritic building off an article in American Lawyer and another by a former Bush I official named Ken Juster that were critical of Iraqgate coverage. I was calling the Iraqgate reporters to get their response to the alleged errors, omissions, and exaggerations in their reporting.
I got the full Waas treatment. More returned phone calls than I really wanted. A meeting in his townhouse (little furniture, lots of mess) and the offer of endless documents that didn’t seem to go anywhere or actually prove anything. There was also a little bit of intimidation—interns who mess with Waas don’t move up in the world, I guess. But Waas did talk—that was better than New York Times columnist William Safire, who just told me off and hung up the phone.
And having spent more than a decade in journalism, I know that newsrooms are better with a sprinkling of crazy and obsessive. Sometimes you have to be nuts to do the things journalists are expected to do or to invest the obscene hours going over microscopic details to get a story.