Perhaps, just perhaps, the New York Times decided to publish the McCain/Iseman story to get in front of The New Republic‘s “The Long Run-Up” – which details the problems in the NYT newsroom as the contributing reporters fought with each other, and Editor Bill Keller.

“Beyond its revelations, however, what’s most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all: The new information it reveals focuses on the private matters of the candidate, and relies entirely on the anecdotal evidence of McCain’s former staffers to justify the piece–both personal and anecdotal elements unusual in the Gray Lady. The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves–the piece contains a collection of decade-old stories about McCain and Iseman appearing at functions together and concerns voiced by McCain’s aides that the Senator shouldn’t be seen in public with Iseman–and departs from the Times’ usual authoritative voice. At one point, the piece suggestively states: “In 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, ‘Why is she always around?'” In the absence of concrete, printable proof that McCain and Iseman were an item, the piece delicately steps around purported romance and instead reports on the debate within the McCain campaign about the alleged affair.

“What happened? The publication of the article capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn’t. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable.”

The New York Times is fighting a decrease in circulation, falling stock prices, and constant criticism of biased, unsubstantiated reporting. Why would Keller take a risk? Because he chose to support his reporters, who chose to believe the words of a disgruntled former male staffer – that a decade ago didn’t like a Lobbyist who lobbied his former boss, when he wasn’t yet a candidate for president.

Give. Me. A. Break.

—Media Lizzy