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Reporter for 'The Modesto Bee' Discusses Hometown Response to Disappearance of Chandra Levy, Gary Condit

Aired July 6, 2001 - 09:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: The disappearance of former intern Chandra Levy has baffled police, has kept investigators busy, and has created something of a media furor over the developments that have been coming in the case -- the latest today from an aunt of Ms. Levy, Linda Zamsky, who was speaking to "The Washington Post" today and giving the same details to them that she gave earlier to police.

Here she is now, appearing this morning, on the way to the car.

This is in an account with "The Washington Post," in which she says Ms. Levy and Mr. Condit did have an affair. He was a married man who gave her gifts, paid for a couple of plane trips to California, orchestrated their meetings, spent weekends with her, in his apartment in Washington, and used to go out to the suburbs for Thai food with her all the time.

LINDA ZAMSKY: Can't talk about it.

QUESTION: None of that?

ZAMSKY: No -- OK?

QUESTION: OK.

What are plans for today?

ZAMSKY: Gardening, paper work.

QUESTION: I'm going to get you walking in the door.

FRAZIER: This is the aunt, Linda Zamsky, who doesn't want to talk about it now, but who did give a full account of her interview to "The Washington Post" and earlier gave a videotaped account of these allegations to police investigators.

All of which makes the denials of Mr. Condit a little bit more questionable now.

To talk a little bit more about that, let's talk to the editor, in Washington, for "The Modesto Bee," the hometown newspaper for Ms. Levy and Mr. Condit, Mike Doyle, who joins us now from Washington.

MIKE DOYLE, "THE MODESTO BEE": My pleasure -- a correction: I'm a reporter, not an editor.

FRAZIER: I'd love to give you a promotion for the trouble you've taken in coming on with us. Thanks for reporting that.

The news about this -- how much have you been reporting, and how has it been received by your readers in California?

DOYLE: We've been reporting this consistently from the beginning. Chandra Levy's from Modesto; Congressman Condit is as well. It's been a hometown story for us from the start. The way it's been received -- classified in two areas. In terms of the volume of interest, it's playing like a summer blockbuster; we've had record hits on some of our Chandra Levy Web sites in terms of tone of interest, there's some melancholy and considerable curiosity. Melancholy because of the underlying missing person mystery, and because Congressman Condit has been representing the district for 12 years and has considerable support, and people don't quite know where this story is going to go.

FRAZIER: How do you know how your reporting is being perceived? Are your viewers writing in?

DOYLE: Writing in in record numbers. We put my phone number and e-mail address at the bottom of each story, and I have never, in the 13 years that I've been reporting in Washington, received anywhere near the volume of phone calls, hard copy letters, or e-mails in response to my stories. My colleagues in the Modesto, Fresno and Sacramento, as well as the editors, are being literally bombarded with comments. And it's not just from the readership area directly, but it's nationwide as well, thanks to the Internet. So I would say the direct feedback we're getting, especially through e-mail, is the signal this is getting a record level of interest.

FRAZIER: As you said, Gary Condit is a respected congressman, well liked in his district, and he is a person who has asked for his personal privacy to be respected through this and has tried to focus attention on the search for Ms. Levy, rather than on him. How do you tread through the minefield of covering these allegations coming from other sources, such as Ms. Zamsky, the aunt whom we were just quoting today, or this flight attendant who spoke earlier in the week?

DOYLE: It is a very tricky issue for us, the McClatchy Newspapers, which is the company that publishes the Modesto and the Fresno bees. We are aggressive, but were are also responsible, and we tend to be quite conservative, in some respects, as in the use of anonymous sources, particularly when making allegations of a personal nature. We've been trying to hew to a strict standard of keeping things on the record, where possible, and trying to walk a balance between what's relevant to Congressman Condit's public service and to the disappearance of Chandra Levy. And inevitably, we are also being drawn to look at least some elements of the private life, if it affects his public personality.

I would say there are other news organizations -- and I'd cite some tabloid newspapers -- that have been far more aggressive in, I think, in some way, irresponsibly so, looking at the private life, something that Abbe Lowell, Congressman Condit's attorney, decried in his written statement yesterday.

FRAZIER: Indeed, indeed.

Mike Doyle, a reporter for "The Modesto Bee," we're grateful for those insights. thanks for joining us this morning.

DOYLE: My pleasure.

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