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The News Tip: Saying It's Over Doesn't Make It So

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Two weeks ago, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain found himself fending off reports of sexual harassment published in the Washington political newspaper Politico.

"As far as we're concerned ... enough said about the issue. There's nothing else there to dig up," he said.

That was, predictably, not the end of the story. It continues on, unsettled, which says something about the age-old idea of "controlling the story."

NPR's media correspondent, David Folkenflik, has this news tip: Just because the subject of a story says it's over doesn't mean that's true.

He tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Audie Cornish the Murdoch family also tried to put a stop to a story that just wouldn't end. Four years ago, Folkenflik says, they tried to limit the problem to the first two arrests. Since then, many more people have become involved in the investigation.

Containing a story, Folkenflik says, "depends on what kind of information you bring forward, and it also depends on the nature of the story itself."

When questions were raised about whether President Obama was born in the United States, a requirement for the presidency, the story didn't end when Hawaiian officials said he was born there. The president had to hand the press his long-form birth certificate.

"He finally gave the most incontrovertible, most authoritative source he could, and the story evaporated at that point," Folkenflik says.

In the current media climate, it's harder to reign in a story once it has been set loose, he says.

"I think the way in which you deal with it is with speed and with fullness," Folkenflik says. "But, you know, until you do that in a credible way, you're not going to be able to get to the end of the story."

Which other public figures have effectively ended a story by revealing evidence up front? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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