I remember looking at the Drudge Report at about 3:00 p.m. and seeing that the lead was a huge picture of Dan with the headline saying something like "Shaken and Stunned, Rather Hiding in Office." The story went on to link to all the other angry and derisive Web sites running critiques of the documents.
The phone rang and it was Dan. "Mary, someone has just handed me something from the Drudge Report saying that I am all shook up and hiding in my office. I just want you to know that's not true. I'm not worried and I'm not even in my goddammed office."
I knew I could count on Dan. In tough situations, he became "fightin' Dan," someone who told us all to "never back up, never back down, never give up, never give in." I was glad to hear from him and reassured by his reaction to all of it.
Dan told me he was confident in the story and that he was lucky to work with me. He signed off by saying something that had become a shorthand for us over the years: "F-E-A." That was code for "F--- 'Em All," a sentiment that needed to be expressed from time to time in any newsroom. Dan was too much of a gentleman to say the real thing -- at least most of the time. But he knew that when I was under deadline or work pressure I was hard put to find any sentence that couldn't be improved by the liberal use of the "f"-word. At this point, I deeply appreciated the sentiment.
The day continued to deteriorate. I got a stream of tag team phone calls from Josh Howard and Betsy West. They each began with the same ominous words: "Mary, have you seen [fill in the blank]?" It could be the Drudge Report, Power Line, something on FOX News, or a new posting on Little Green Footballs. Or worse yet, "Mary, we've gotten a call from [fill in the blank]." It could be The Washington Post, The New York Times, the New York Post, the Des Moines Register. It felt as though the whole world were reading these obscure blogs and repeating their talking points without questioning them.
When I walked down the hall, I saw groups of people clumped together talking animatedly, then watched as they grew silent when I approached. They'd squeak out a, "Hi, Mary," as I trudged dejectedly past. It was sort of the journalistic equivalent of having toilet paper stuck to your shoe. I can't say that I blamed them or that I would have behaved any differently in their positions. Nothing like this had ever happened before to me or to anyone I knew of. What is journalistic etiquette for watching someone's story and career go up in flames? Everyone knew what was going on. Everyone knew it was going very badly. No one knew what to say.
Some people pitched in and tried to help bail the water out of our sinking ship. I was touched by producer David Gelber's ideas and energy in trying to help. Steve Glauber lent moral support. People would appear in the office door and commiserate. Assistant producers offered to open up Andy Rooney's office and let us look at his collection of old typewriters. Everyone was desperate or depressed -- or both.
Dan came over after the CBS Evening News and we talked about the need to do a story rebutting the attacks the following night. My team of researcher, associate producers, and assistants and I gathered information on IBM typewriters, on font styles, on peripheral spacing. We got lists of new document and computer analysts together. We arranged to do an on-camera interview with Marcel Matley, our original document examiner.