Our reporters are working on stories spurred by John Edwards' admission in a statement today that he is the father of Rielle Hunter's little girl.
Every morning, we have a news meeting at 9:45 to discuss what we are working on that day, for our online site, newsobserver.com, and for the next day's print edition. Today, Thursday, we had a special meeting after the 9:45 session to discuss the Edwards story.
Because the news broke around 7 a.m., when the statement was released for publication, and then started popping up on every news web site from Bar Harbor to San Diego within minutes, including our own, the story would be nearly 24 hours old by the time the Friday paper hit the driveways.
That may be, in fact, the way the Edwards folks intended it, that this disclosure would run its course for 24 hours on TV and online, and so newspapers would be less inclined to blow it out on their front pages in the Friday papers, because it would be old news.
That is one of the effects of 24-hour cable and 24-hour Internet. News has a shorter shelf life. Big news has a very short shelf life.
That puts more pressure on people like us. We deliver a lot of our news online, the minute we finish gathering it. But we also produce a print product that people still want to buy and read. Some of these folks have gotten the news already on their laptops, on their phones, and through cable news.
So in the case of the Edwards story, we have to develop the story in a different way, with more context and layers of information. What people want to know online, typically, is What just happened? The answer being: Edwards finally fessed up to being little Frances Quinn Hunter's daddy, despite previous, strenuous, look-the-American-people-in-the-eye denials.
In print, we can explore questions like: Why did he admit this now? Where does he go from here? What do political types make of all this? What about Elizabeth, his wife? How does this fit in with the federal investigation of Edwards?
And we can reconnect this latest news with the arc of Edwards' life, one of the most astonishing rises and falls in American political history. With a better turnout for the Democratic ticket in Ohio, John Kerry would have beaten George Bush in that state and won the 2004 election. And John Edwards, an obscure Raleigh personal injury lawyer until a dozen years ago, would have become vice president of the United States.