The strategy worked.
Someone who wanted to diminish the impact of today's David Paterson story in the NYT by Danny Hakim and William Rashbaum -- maybe someone in Paterson's office, or perhaps someone jealous of Hakim's Pulitzer Prize -- started rumors a few weeks ago that the NYT was working on a Paterson sex blockbuster. The rumormonger knew the story would never live up to the hype. The final product would be deemed dull.
And that's how it turned out. Gawker has declared today's Paterson story "boring," and dozens of commenters have already weighed in on the NYT website with their verdict: dull, not worth the effort, and a disappointment. Specifically, readers have attacked the piece for its dependence on anonymous sources, and its thin premise.
The revelation that a top personal aide to the governor of New York State has been repeatedly accused of violence against women strikes us as significant, relevant and worth the space. David Johnson apparently has the sort of access to the governor that makes him a significant player in New York State government, and not by the voters' choice. He's worthy of scrutiny by any standard.
It stands to reason that his accusers -- women who he has allegedly attacked -- would be reluctant to identify themselves, out of fear. Yes, there's some dispute over the allegations, and yes, the Paterson camp has produced women who contradict them. Like most stories that involve abuse against defenseless women by powerful men, it's a nebulous story with no definitive smoking gun -- its weaknesses amplified by fear.
In our society, it still takes tremendous courage for women to accuse men of harassment and abuse with their names attached. Anita Hill comes to mind as a rare and noble example of a woman who dared to subject herself to attack, when she came forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. The repercussions can be enormous, and we don't fault any woman for opting to remain anonymous in making such charges against a high-profile political figure.
But we applaud the NYT for bringing the story to light, and raising a legitimate question about a man David Paterson has chosen as his top personal aide. And we admire the paper for refusing to cave to public pressure, and hype its story for the sake of satisfying a hungry mob fueled by rumor.
Today's story stands the test of legitimacy and should be taken at face value by readers who demand the best journalism -- not the most sensational -- from the NYT.