Sarah Ellison at WP:
Months before the New York Times published a December article suggesting Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.) had fabricated much of his résumé and biography, a tiny publication on Long Island was ringing alarm bells about its local candidate. The North Shore Leader wrote in September, when few others were covering Santos, about his “inexplicable rise” in reported net worth — from essentially nothing in 2020 to as much as $11 million two years later. … The Leader reluctantly endorsed Santos’s Democratic opponent the next month. “This newspaper would like to endorse a Republican,” it wrote, but Santos “is so bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy that we cannot. … He boasts like an insecure child — but he’s most likely just a fabulist — a fake.”
It was the stuff national headlines are supposed to be built on: A hyperlocal outlet like the Leader does the leg work, regional papers verify and amplify the story, and before long an emerging political scandal is being broadcast coast-to-coast. But that system, which has atrophied for decades amid the destruction of news economies, appears to have failed completely this time. Despite a well-heeled and well-connected readership — the Leader’s publisher says it counts among its subscribers Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jesse Watters and several senior people at Newsday, a once-mighty Long Island-based tabloid that has won 19 Pulitzers — no one followed its story before Election Day.