The Media War Over Caroline Kennedy

Look: It's a glorious, bona fide press brawl! Caroline Kennedy's withdrawal from senate consideration touched off the rivalry between New York and D.C. news desks. New York won.

The inauguration and near-socialization of finance was already stoking Washington, D.C.'s ascent. Then came the squabbling over Kennedy's exit.

The feud, lasting a few intense hours, started with the New York Post's scoop about Kennedy withdrawing her name from Gov. David Paterson's consideration. The tabloid offer no details initially, but the Times soon confirmed with its own source, as did Newsday, along with the Associated Press's Albany bureau.

The New York media had home field advantage, since the story ran through Paterson's office. But the Capitol Hill press wasn't about to be upstaged on its own senate by a bunch of grubby Albany reporters. They picked up their cell phones, called Ted Kennedy's people — we're assuming, since that's where a DC reporter would go for the Kennedy scoop — and began publishing breathless denials.

The Washington Post lead its story by stating that while "New York media" was reporting Caroline Kennedy had withdrawn her name, there were "Kennedy family confidants angrily dismissing those reports." It later clarified the confidantes had said the reports were "smears aimed at undermining her chances."

David Gregory, of NBC's Washington-based Meet The Press, appeared on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show and led with word from "a source in the Kennedy family... that Caroline Kennedy has not — not — withdrawn from consideration." Here's the video, which, in fairness, includes some sober caveats from Gregory:

AP was embarrassingly fast to disclaim its own story, reversing itself entirely:

After wavering briefly, Caroline Kennedy renewed her determination Wednesday to win appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by her slain uncle, Bobby Kennedy, a person close to the decision said.

...The AP initially reported Kennedy had withdrawn from the race but corrected the story about an hour later after the person who gave that information said it was an error.

Presumably this correction then had to be corrected when it turned out the original story got it right.

But the New York press embarrassed itself too!

The Media War Over Caroline KennedyS

Specifically, the Post's Frederic Dicker face-planted badly, reporting just this past Monday that Paterson was "certain" to pick Caroline Kennedy for Hillary Clinton's old senate seat, according to "several unhappy contenders for the job." Drudge Report ran the story under the headline "It's Caroline!"

Dicker is the dean of state political reporting, if only because he's the only member of the press corps who can stomach Albany. His competitor at the Times, young Nick Confessore won't move upstaet. And yet Confessore scooped Dicker on the purported reason for Kennedy's departure, concern over the health of her ailing uncle, who has a malignant brain tumor and suffered a seizure at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Dicker's response? To blatantly contradict his report of two just two days earlier. Instead of Paterson having his heart set on Kennedy, the guv was now telling her she didn't have a shot. At least rival Confessore's version, in which Kennedy made the decision to leave, left the Post's earlier story looking more plausible.

Dickers' saving grace is that he and the Post scooped everyone on the news that Caroline Kennedy was out. There's a good lesson there: If you're wrong, be the first one to point it out.

(Because the Post had broken the story, the Daily News joined the Washington press in quoting Kennedy family sources denying Kennedy was out (mentioned in this Newsday story). The rival tabloids must always piss on one another's work, even if it means an alliance with DC.)