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From AJR,   April 1999  issue

The Wall Street Journals   

Related reading:   A Tough Call for the Nationís Editors

By Chris Harvey
Harvey, a former AJR managing editor and a former associate editor at washingtonpost.com, teaches Web writing and publishing at the University of Maryland.     

How unusual is it for the Wall Street Journal to break news on its editorial page? Not very, say two top editors at the paper.

"It's hard for people who don't work here to appreciate it, but they do what they do, and we do what we do," says Gerald Seib, deputy chief of the Journal's Washington bureau, who says the news staff was not told in advance the interview with Juanita Broaddrick would appear on the February 19 editorial page.

The two departments "really do operate independently," concurs Robert L. Bartley, the editorial page editor.

Bartley says he suggested trying to talk to Broaddrick after Dorothy Rabinowitz, a TV critic and member of the paper's editorial board, "came around talking about the fact that NBC was not broadcasting [correspondent] Lisa Myers' interview, after having broadcast the same story [about the alleged assault] without an interview previously." Rabinowitz did not return phone calls seeking comment.

NBC's Myers had named Broaddrick in March 1998, after Paula Jones' lawyer included information on the allegation in court filings. But this year, the network took more than a month to air its January 20 interview with the nursing home administrator.

The WSJ editorial page had no qualms about running its interview, Bartley says. Broaddrick's allegation was "in the evidence made available to the Congress by the independent counsel and by credible reports was important in key votes to impeach." The duty of the press, he adds, "is to get the news out, not to conduct a trial on whether it should let the public in on the secret it and congressmen have been sharing."

Why hasn't the Journal's news staff done more with the story? "I don't want to go into what we're doing to report or not report the story," Seib says.