It's been more than two weeks, but we still are positively baffled by a small blurb in Ruth Ryon's May 27 'Hot Property' column in the Los Angeles Times, which referred to the more than 10,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif. that records show that Tom Cruise purchased on April 2.

In the item, which ran low in Ryon's May 27 column, she wrote that 'A Beverly Hills home once known as the See's Candies estate and owned by a founder of the company has sold for $35 million. The house, built in 1937, has seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms in 13,000 square feet. It's on 1.3 acres and has a pool and a tennis court. Kurt Rappaport, co-founder of the realty firm Westside Estate Agency, and his wife, Juliette, were the sellers.'

However, Ryon had written about that very Beverly Hills house--and about that exact same transaction--just three weeks earlier, when she broke the story on May 6 of Cruise and wife Katie Holmes paying 'close to $35 million' for a Beverly Hills home that was built in 1937 and that sits on 1.3 acres. In the May 6 item, however, Ryon never identified the seller, and she also didn't describe the house as the onetime See's Candies estate.

(It's not as if Ryon didn't know the identity of the seller when she wrote her May 6 column. 1) Rappaport's name was clearly visible in public records; 2) our own follow-up post on Cruise's purchase, which ran just hours after Ryon's May 6 column was uploaded online, identified Rappaport as the seller; and 3) the LexisNexis database shows that Rappaport's name has appeared in Ryon's column no fewer than 85 times since 1990.)

We believe it's misleading--if not downright deceptive to one's readers--for the same columnist to write about separate halves of the same transaction as two different stories three weeks apart. It suggests to readers that these are two different transactions. We also think it's misleading to deliberately omit what easily is the most newsworthy (and juicy) aspect of a transaction, as Ryon did on May 27. And we think any journalism professor, including those at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where we earned a degree, would concur.

Why would Ryon do such a thing? We can only assume that it's the result of Faustian bargains that she strikes with her sources--the uber-agents to the stars like Rappaport who clearly feed her exclusives in exchange for the promotional value that they receive by getting their names in her column. Ryon may have left Rappaport's name out of the May 6 exclusive because it would make the exact location of Cruise's new mansion, which is at 1111 Calle Vista Drive, a little harder for stalkers to find. Even so, it still begs the question about why Ryon would need to write about the 'other half' of the sale (i.e., the seller's name and the house's history) three weeks later. And if the reason for printing those facts three weeks later truly was in order to enlighten readers, then why was Cruise's identity as the buyer omitted from the May 27 item?

This is far from the first time that Ryon has practiced this 'two halves' style of reporting in her column. We quickly came up with two other high-profile examples of this, although we can only imagine that there have been many more over the years. The most egregious one occurred in 2002, when singer Justin Timberlake purchased actress Helen Hunt's house at 3100 Torreyson Drive in L.A.'s Hollywood Hills. Take a look at the following two excerpts of items that Ryon wrote one week apart. In the first item, Ryon never reports that Timberlake bought his house from Hunt, and in the second item, she never mentions that Hunt sold her house to Timberlake:

--August 11, 2002: 'Justin Timberlake of the pop group 'N Sync has purchased a Hollywood Hills home in the low $8-million range....Timberlake's new home has five bedrooms and 8 1/2 bathrooms in about 12,000 square feet. On several acres behind gates, the Mediterranean-style house also has a theater, gym, guest house and tennis court. The home has a cobblestone motor courtyard and covered parking for three vehicles.'

--One week later, on August 18, 2002: 'Helen Hunt has sold her newly built Hollywood Hills home for $8.3 million....The home, on nearly 10 acres, includes a tennis court, two office suites and a screening room with a lobby and a wet bar.'

Another example of 'two halves' reporting took place in late 2004, when actor Adam Sandler paid $12 million to buy the 12,860-square-foot mansion at 1422 Capri Drive in L.A.'s Pacific Palisades area from actors Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. In that case, Ryon reported on November 28, 2004 that Hawn and Russell had purchased a new Pacific Palisades home for close to its $4.5 million asking price, and wrote that the couple 'have had another home in the area.' One week later, Ryon wrote on December 5, 2004 that Adam Sandler had purchased a Pacific Palisades home for just under $13 million (which clearly was that 'another home in the area' that Russell and Hawn had owned). Given her myriad real-estate sources, it's highly unlikely that Ryon didn't know that Russell and Hawn were the ones selling the mansion to Sandler. And as a result, once again, one of the juiciest parts of a celebrity real-estate transaction--in this case the fact that a celebrity couple was selling to another celebrity--wound up out of the paper.