Vanity Fair and the attack of the "family friend"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

I'm talking about a new article by Ed Klein (oy) which is a supposed inside look at the drama that unfolded within the Kennedy clan last year as Caroline tried to enter the race for New York senator, while Ted Kennedy's health gave way. The piece is actually an excerpt from Klein's upcoming Kennedy book.

And after reading the VF slice, the only question is, can the entire book be this bad? Sadly, if Klein's at the helm and he's writing about powerful Democrats, the answer is yes.

The excerpt is mostly a cut-and-paste job, with Klein relying on the work of others. But the writer does some original reporting and offers up juicy tidbits. But are they true? Readers can't really tell because readers have no way of judging the quality of Klein's sources since they're presented as an interchangeable group of anonymous no-names. Here's pretty much the entire sourcing, as described in the article:

-"According to one family friend"

-"according to a family friend"

-"a friend of the Kennedy family"

-"said another family friend"

-"said a family friend"

-"said a family friend"

-"said a longtime family adviser"

-"said the Kennedy-family adviser"

-"said the family adviser"

Discussing the article on Hardball last night, Chris Matthews may have summed it up best: "Ed Klein is out to lunch with this piece and Vanity Fair shouldn't have run it."

UPDATE: The only thing more depressing than reading glossy mag journalism like Klein's, is watching other journalists take it seriously. From ABC's The Note:

It appears the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy's vision of his niece Caroline to carry the Kennedy family banner forward in the Senate for another generation may have been thwarted by Ms. Kennedy's children according to a published excerpt of a new book about Sen. Kennedy's life.

If by "appears," The Note means that those were the words that appeared on the pages of Vanity Fair, than that's accurate. But trust me, there's nothing beyond that in Klein's reporting that even remotely suggest he nailed down any key facts about possible generational struggles within the Kennedy family.

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