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Steve Cameron: Please trust this about our sports section

Like millions of other Americans, I've been watching hours and hours of political coverage on the tube.

Hey, this is an historic election, so...

You tend to sit longer as hosts on CNN, MSNBC and all the other networks spin theories, work the math and -- most important -- listen to dozens of guest experts hash over exit polls to try spotting trends.

Nothing gets overlooked.

Except...

I almost went numb one night recently when someone mentioned the New York Times' now-infamous story about John McCain and what might be some inconsistencies in the candidate's blanket denials of wrongdoing.

Anyone who cares about the next occupant of the White House has heard all this stuff a hundred times.

It's been argued back and forth everywhere but on the Discovery Channel.

This show I was watching, though, featured a gang of panelists -- the usual crowd of journalists, Republican and Democratic strategists, pollsters and warmed-over ex-candidates like Pat Buchanan.

I can't remember which batch was on duty when the subject of McCain and the Times came bubbling back to the surface -- and the truth is I wasn't paying a great deal of attention.

There have been a few dozen things to draw blood since that Times article, so it wasn't exactly a hair-raiser, until...

Some woman whose name I can't remember -- a Republican campaign advisor -- was busy pooh-poohing the lobbyist angle and lambasting the Times (yawn), when suddenly she said:

"Let's face it. The New York Times had this old story, and they brought it back to life because McCain's going to be the nominee.

"And we all know the deal: The Times just wanted to sell some newspapers."

(Those italics are mine.)

This was an educated woman, presumably a fairly important player in some parts of the political arena, and certainly no newcomer to the ways of the national media.

My jaw almost hit the carpet.

It was the craziest thing I'd ever heard, and yet I realized that if a serious political consultant was stating to the world that the New York Times actually ran that story to sell newspapers, well, a lot of people actually must believe it.

And yet the whole premise is complete nonsense.

The New York Times wouldn't give a nanosecond's thought to whether or not even a thousand more people might grab a paper -- as though this would rock the economics of a business worth hundreds of millions.

And yet there it was, in the midst of a serious news debate, on national TV.

Suddenly it dawned on me that when a mom calls in and accuses the Sun-Star of ignoring her daughter the softball player -- or her son the tight end -- because we have to write about somebody more important to sell more papers...

She believes it.

People actually think -- really and truly -- that we might make a decision on the sports front cover based on an attempt to sell papers.

I've been in this business a long time, and I can tell you without a question of doubt that we don't ever make editorial decisions while wondering if a few more people might plunk 50 cents into a box.

The only time we sell extra papers is well-advertised, and it's because you ask for it.

For instance, if a local high school wins a district football championship, we might print a special eight-page commemorative edition.

Maybe. But that's it.

After hearing that woman on CNN, I'm not sure the public actually will believe this, but I want it on record.

We make editorial decisions for lots and lots and lots of different reasons.

Selling a dozen extra papers at Save Mart ain't one of them.

And never will be.

Steve Cameron is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at 384-2221 or via e-mail at scameron@mercedsunstar.com.

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