This month, Rolling Stone ran an investigative feature claiming that Republicans used a systematic combination of voter disenfranchisement and fraud, centered in Ohio, to rob John Kerry of a win in the 2004 presidential election.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and son of liberal icon Bobby Kennedy, wrote the article, available, along with supporting research, at rollingstone.com. Will Dana, Rolling Stone's managing editor, discussed story and its implications.
PRWeek: When and why did you guys decide to pursue this story?
Will Dana: Well, we'd been talking about it for... a year. And we were just having a conversation with Bobby Kennedy, and we brought it up with him, and he was interested in looking into it and how it began. It was actually going to begin being just a book review…it got a lot bigger, and we decided to commit some reporting resources to it, and make it more of an investigation.
PRWeek: Why did you decide to have RFK Jr. write it?
Dana: Because he's just done stuff for us, and the idea had been floating around the office to do this piece. And then once he got interested in it, it seemed like a natural fit.
PRWeek: Tell me about the process of putting the article together.
Dana: We were just on the ground in Ohio, interviewing tons of people, going through tons of documents and numbers, and all that.
PRWeek: And that took several months?
PRWeek: Why do you think this story was not covered so much in the national media?
Dana: I think the main reason is because there's not a smoking gun. You don't have someone saying, "Yes, we did this." What you have is a lot of things that can't be explained away - a lot of little things that, in isolation, might not seem to suggest that there was something wrong with the election, but when you look at it all together, and take a step back, I think it's hard to conclude that there wasn't something wrong with the election.
PRWeek: Did you get any indication of who the driving force or coordinator behind all this was?
Dana: Obviously, we couldn't say that the national Republican Party and the Bush campaign had worked together with Ohio. But we could certainly suggest that there were patterns, and there were things that looked like an organized effort.
PRWeek: This story wasn't based on secret information; why didn't the Democrats pursue this themselves?
Dana: That's a big question. You [have had Democratic congressman] John Conyers doing it, the congressional committee, but you didn't have the national party doing it. I think it's really a question for them. That's a question that we asked ourselves.
PRWeek: Have you gotten any indication that the New York Times or other major media outlets are going to take another look at this?
Dana: No, I have not seen that.
PRWeek: Have you gotten any sense of the public reaction to this article?
Dana: I will say, as of [early June], there were nearly 400 comments on our message boards, which is a factor ten times more than we usually get on a piece like this. And that was just in the first couple days of it being up. And if you do a blog search, you see a tremendous amount of discussion of it, pro and con.
Name: Will Dana
Outlet: Rolling Stone
Title: Managing Editor