A Smear's Journey to Page One

| February 2004

NEW YORK, February 18, 2004 - She smiles back from page one of Tuesday's New York Daily News. Her face is closely cropped, wrapped in 240-point Arial; 'I'M NO MONICA' the headline declares.

The lead spills to page three, where the 27-year-old Columbia grad Alexandra Polier denies rumors linking her romantically to Senator John Kerry. The allegations of an affair, made public last Thursday by conservative rumormonger Matt Drudge, had ignited an online firestorm that, over time, spread from right-wing websites to foreign tabloids, and ultimately into U.S. mainstream press.

In the front-page Daily News story, Polier calls reports of an affair between her and the democratic frontrunner 'completely false.' Other leading American newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today, trumpeted her denial, marking an unusual passage in journalism where mainstream news outlets report the negation of a story that they initially did not cover.

The Daily News's front-page billing of the denial would indicate that readers had gone elsewhere to read the rumor that sparked the scandal. This is likely given Drudge's claim that more than 15 million people visited his site after he released the report on Thursday. The fervid attention subsequently heaped upon the story by partisan media groups and British and Australian tabloids also filtered onto the screens and into the minds of many Americans.

Cutting Corners To Stand above the News Clutter

These news sources, once inaccessible to average Americans, now appear alongside mainstream news stories in the results of a simple Google News search.