September 14, 1998
Within minutes of being released, the Starr report was made available to the world on the Internet. For those without online access, the major news networks discussed the report's findings in graphic detail. The following day, newspapers around the country printed the report in its entirety. Following a background report, Terence Smith and guests discuss the media's coverage of the Starr report.
JIM LEHRER: Now media correspondent Terence Smith on how the Starr report was covered and reported.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
NEWSHOUR LINKS: MEDIA
September 14, 1998:
A discussion on the media's coverage of the Starr report.
September 8, 1998:
Is Dan Burton's private life fair game?
September 3, 1998:
The Monica Lewinsky story follows the president to Russia.
September 1, 1998:
Financial news gains more and more coverage.
August 28, 1998:
A look at media coverage of Princess Diana, a year after her death.
NEWSHOUR LINKS: THE STARR REPORT
September 11, 1998:
The Starr report and White House rebuttal.
September 11, 1998:
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot debate the potential impact of Kenneth Starr's referral to Congress.
September 11, 1998:
Two former federal prosecutors examine the legal issues presented in the Starr report.
September 10, 1998:
What is the constitutional basis for impeaching a president?
September 9, 1998:
Kenneth Starr drops off his case to the House.
September 3, 1998:
Four former senators discuss whether the president should step down.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of media issues and Congress.
The White House
The House Judiciary Committee.
Yahoo!'s collection of links regarding the Starr Report.
JIM SHEPPARD: What I need to look at right this minute is the executive summary-
WORKER: Have at it --
Disseminating the information.
TERENCE SMITH: It was just after 2 o'clock last Friday when managing editor Jim Sheppard at washingtonpost.com, the newspaper's online Web site, finally got his hands on the document all the media had been waiting for -- the Starr report.
EDITOR: Does anybody besides CNN got it? The New York Times doesn't have it.
EDITOR: And USA Today does not have it. If you reload that -
TERENCE SMITH: For the online Web sites, the broadcast networks and wire services, the Starr report was ground was ground zero, perhaps the biggest test yet in instant electronic communication. Some fared well, while others did not.
JIM SHEPPARD: It's been absolutely record traffic. We've been at or near capacity since about mid- morning.
TERENCE SMITH: That demand caused the Washington Post's online system to slow down for a few crucial minutes on Friday. But for the most part, they and others recovered quickly.
EDITOR: I'm firing out again.
TERENCE SMITH: Once they had the report, the washingtonpost.com editors began pushing out certain sections, while waiting for final word from the newspaper's senior editors whether they should transmit in entirety.
JIM SHEPPARD: The issue of whether to publish or not - I mean, it's certainly one that every media site has had to wrestle with. There's never been a case like this where details that we would normally consider to be salacious and designed merely to titillate are actually at the core of the legal issue.
TERENCE SMITH: But the lurid passages posed no problem for the Cable News Network. Correspondent Candy Crowley was already live, in front of a computer, reading the report unedited as she scrolled through it.
CANDY CROWLEY: Her overall recollection was hazy …
TERENCE SMITH: While the report made for one of the Internet's finest hours in disseminating detailed information directly to the public, for broadcasters it was more awkward.
FRANK SESNO, CNN: Because you've been looking at this part of the report -
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN: Pretty much so.
TERENCE SMITH: Viewers saw a lot of people looking down and reading and struggling to get it straight.
CHARLES BIERBAUER: In truth, according to Ms. Lewinsky, reading now, her job never required her to deliver papers to the president. On a few occasions, during her White House employment, Ms. Lewinsky and the president arranged to bump into each other in the hallway.
TOM BROKAW, NBC: The White House crisis --
The news industry's coverage of the Starr report.
TERENCE SMITH: The network evening news shows went light on detail and heavy on reaction. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer devoted six minutes to excerpts in a summary of the report, followed by a discussion of the legal case made by Starr. For the nation's newspapers, the Starr report met extra pulp. The New York Times, Washington Post, and several others published the entire document, some in special stand-alone sections, at a cost of over $100,000 each. A few, like the Washington Post, felt the need to explain their rationale. In their special section an editor's note read, "We have decided not to edit the text of the report because of the unique circumstances of its release by the U.S. Congress on government Internet sites and by other means," while others, like the Richmond Times Dispatch, printed only selected excerpts. The nation's largest circulation paper, USA Today, printed the report in this morning's edition and joined 30 other newspapers in calling for the president's resignation. The inevitable instant books will be out this week. Public Affairs, part of the Perseus Books Group, printed over the weekend a volume that will reach the bookstores tomorrow. Jack McKeown is the head of Perseus Books.
JACK McKEOWN: It's the quickest turnaround I've ever been involved with in almost 22 years of book publishing.
TERENCE SMITH: And this morning the drumbeat of television coverage continued.
CORRESPONDENT: Another constant in the polls is that most Americans do not want the President removed from office.