Blurred lanes: The Journal really owned the Christie story

The George Washington Bridge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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As the Chris Christie “Bridgegate” scandal metastasizes, some Wall Street Journal reporters are feeling frustrated that their newspaper’s role in moving the story forward has been somewhat drowned out.

Last week, praise was being heaped on The Record for “owning” the story. The Bergen County, N.J.-focused daily arrived at the party early with a Sept. 13 column noting that closures on the George Washington Bridge were wreaking havoc on the town of Fort Lee.

The Record also was the first outlet—beating The New York Times by a matter of 20 or 30 minutes, according to Times metro editor Wendell Jamieson—to report last week on emails revealing that one of Gov. Christie’s top aides had ordered the lane closures in an apparent act of political retribution.

But between the start of the fiasco and last week’s game-changing revelations, it was the Journal, led by transportation reporter Ted Mann, that really kept the story alive by delivering the most consistent scoops about the lane closures, according to a detailed coverage comparison compiled by a source via Factiva and web searches.

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Mann also featured prominently in the piles of emails released Friday by the New Jersey State Legislature, in addition to reporters from The Record and The Star-Ledger.

"You'd expect this to be a New York Times story, which has admirably done great work on New York governors, and has been accused (I think unfairly) of publishing unflattering Christie stories,” the Journal source told Capital. “But it's not. It's a Wall Street Journal story through and through.”

In a blog post last week, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan chastised her paper for not crediting The Record as being the first outlet to report on the damning emails. While Sullivan acknowledged that "The Wall Street Journal’s Ted Mann and Heather Haddon also moved the story forward with strong early reporting that broke new elements,” she also wrote, "The Record owned this one early and broke it first.”

Over the weekend, however, the Journal was getting some well-deserved pats on the back.

“Big props to @TMannWSJ for breaking this story wide open,” wrote New York Times metro columnist Michael Powell on Twitter. “Dollars to donuts his EZpass never quite works right again in NJ.”

Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynsky tweeted: “Credit where it's due to @TMannWSJ who broke the bridge story months ago and kept at it.”