What It's Like Covering The Libby Case

(AP / CBS)
For reporters covering the CIA leak probe, the other shoe dropped today with news that White House aide Karl Rove would not be indicted. No shoes were dropped yesterday, however, during another pre-trial hearing on the Scooter Libby case – one of several that have taken place since the former vice president's aide was indicted. Covering the Libby case generally entails "mostly a lot of dull moments" and a few very exciting ones, says CBS News Producer Beverley Lumpkin, who told me a little bit about what it's been like covering the case so far. "Despite the yammering and bloviating of several bloggers over the past several days, no news was committed" at yesterday's hearing, Lumpkin wrote in an e-mail.

Much of the content from yesterday's hearing was likely only of interest to those journalists who are familiar with the most arcane of legal procedures, Lumpkin said -- and there aren't too many of those. The issues discussed were simply "much too inside," said Lumpkin. "They're not the kind of thing anyone will run off and file a report on." While yesterday's hearing didn't make news, "it's still important to know what's going on," said Lumpkin.

Indeed, yesterday's hearing offered at least some indication that something newsworthy might be happening in the near future. Lumpkin described this series of events in an e-mail following the hearing:

After the Libby hearing there was some mystery as Fitzgerald was led away down hallways and through secret locked doors by the administrative assistant to Chief Judge Thomas Hogan. Three intrepid reporters followed along and soon determined the two had disappeared behind a door that leads to both a private dining room for the judges, and a back stairwell that goes both up to the judges' chambers and down to the parking garage. So maybe Fitzgerald was being taken to lunch? Or shown how to get to the garage without being further accosted by unruly reporters? Or was he being led upstairs to have a secret meeting with the Chief Judge? That possibility is potentially newsworthy, because the Chief Judge oversees all grand jury matters. Was Fitzgerald giving the Chief Judge a status report on Rove? Alas, the administrative assistant refused any comment afterwards.
In cases like this, when there are far more intricacies than would be of interest to most viewers, Lumpkin says she pays attention on two levels. "One – is it the kind of stuff that will make news today?" she said. In that case, she would call an "Evening News" producer and explain that something that went on during the hearing should be included in the broadcast in some capacity. On another level, she's "collecting string" -- paying attention to where the case is going, looking for indications of what might be happening six months from now. "A lot of stuff falls into the TMI [too much information] category," she said.

Another element that plays into her newsgathering – how interested the "Evening News" is in the story itself. "When the 'Evening News' isn't that interested, that tempers how you approach the story," said Lumpkin. The broadcast is obviously very interested in the Libby case, "if there are developments," she said. When I spoke with her yesterday, she noted, "No one cares what [Fitzgerald] is doing until he drops the other shoe on Rove," which of course, he did today.