Before he came to National Journal in June 2007 from U.S. News & World Report, Edward T. Pound investigated rumors that Washington lobbyist Vicki Iseman had been romantically involved with Sen. John McCain. Pound could not verify the rumors and decided against including Iseman in a story about McCain, lobbyists, and big money.
After The New York Times published an article about Iseman and McCain on February 21, 2008, Pound (by now at National Journal) did some additional reporting and spoke to some of his original sources. On September 24, Iseman agreed to an interview.
Over the course of the next three weeks, Pound talked to Iseman at least 12 times, including two on-the-record interviews covering a total of six hours. She also gave detailed e-mail answers to questions. Pound interviewed more than 20 other people for the story, both to check their accounts against Iseman's and to guard against the possibility that NJ was being used to try to influence the outcome of the election.
We could find no evidence that Iseman was making herself available now because of political motivations (to either help McCain or hurt McCain). Her motivation seemed more personal: to get her side of the story out in the hope that it would help mitigate the damage to her reputation from what she considered an unfair New York Times article.
In deciding to run this article now, I knew that National Journal might be criticized for publishing a sensitive story just two-and-a-half weeks before the election. But I also knew that we would be criticized if we held the story until after the election -- or didn't run it at all.
In the end, I concluded that the news value of Iseman speaking publicly for the first time outweighed any concerns about the timing of the piece and justified the decision to publish the article as soon as it was thoroughly reported.
This article appears in the October 18, 2008 edition of National Journal Magazine Contents.
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