This October, Rolling Stone published an exclusive report detailing an FBI raid on a prominent journalist's home which was followed by the journalist's disappearance from public view. The target of the raid was ABC News producer James Gordon Meek.
"Meek has been charged with no crime. But independent observers believe the raid is among the first — and quite possibly, the first — to be carried out on a journalist by the Biden administration," wrote Rolling Stone's Tatiana Siegel.
But behind the scenes at the outlet, Siegel was outraged at how the story was edited. According to a report from NPR this Tuesday, Siegel accused Rolling Stone Editor-in-Chief Noah Shachtman of omitting her findings that Meek was part of a federal investigation into images of child sex abuse.
"The raid on Meek's apartment occurred in April but did not become public knowledge. In September, Siegel learned details of the raid from Meek's neighbors, yet she felt the story was languishing. At a staff meeting late that month, Shachtman asked her what she was working on. She reminded him," reported NPR's David Folkenflik. "The next week, Shachtman stepped in to edit Siegel's story. It was rare for him to do so for her work."
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Siegel reportedly informed Shachtman about the seriousness of the accusations against Meek, but Shachtman shot her down, saying she shouldn't turn in a story with the words "child pornography" in it.
Enraged, Siegel accepted a position at a sister publication two months later.
"According to two people with knowledge, Mark S. Zaid, a Washington attorney who often handles national security matters and represents government whistleblowers, called Shachtman on Meek's behalf while Siegel was preparing her story. Zaid previously represented the Daily Beast on Freedom of Information Act cases while Shachtman was editor of the site," Folkenflik reports. "Zaid confirms that he called Shachtman, and he tells NPR that Meek was a longtime friend and client on Freedom of Information issues. Zaid says he was representing Meek on any possible prosecution or investigation of his potential possession of classified material."
Shachtman reportedly later told people that he was skeptical of Siegel's sourcing. Rolling Stone's parent company, Penske Media, told NPR in a statement that the authority to make such choices for Rolling Stone's coverage lies with Shachtman. "That was true in this case, as reflected in the final edits to the story," the company said. "Some material was added late in the process, other material was dropped."
Shachtman reportedly took other steps that seemingly were intended to shield Meek from scrutiny. He told photo staffers to come up with a generic photograph rather than a picture of Meek, saying, "let's not use a picture of the guy in question, james gordon meek."
"NEEDS PHOTO," he told staffers in an internal message. "something FBI-y, please."
In the hours leading up to publication, Folkenflik reports that "Shachtman changed Siegel's draft to remove all suggestions that the investigation was not related to Meek's reporting. He left in the finding that federal agents had allegedly found 'classified information' on Meek's devices."
Read the full report over at NPR.