Dan Calabrese asks, “Imagine this headline and lead appearing in any newspaper, save for the Washington Post, in 1972:”
Post Reporters Deny Using Questionable Tactics to Entrap Nixon
The proposition seemed outlandish. Two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, would accept information from a secret source who would only be known as “Deep Throat.” This information would be so damaging to president of the United States, it would unleash a scandal that would shake the foundations of the nation’s government to its core.
Woodward and Bernstein deny being beholden to left-wing interests, but admit taking advice in their reporting from left-wing editor Ben Bradlee. They insist that no left-wing organization bankrolled their reporting efforts.
As Calabrese writes:
Absurd? Of course. Not even the Republican National Committee would have attempted so shamelessly to turn the Watergate scandal into an indictment of Woodward and Bernstein themselves. And if anyone had, the Post would have screamed bloody murder.
Yet look what the very same Washington Post wrote on Friday about James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, the two independent journalists who exposed what appear to be highly illegal activities by the community organizing group ACORN:
O’Keefe insists that he and Giles’s work was done independently and rejects liberal suggestions that the videos were bankrolled by conservative organizations. He does, however, acknowledge receiving help and advice from a conservative columnist and Web entrepreneur.
Why, exactly, do O’Keefe and Giles now have to defend themselves and their independence, when the result of their work clearly speaks for itself?
Part of the issue is obviously ideological bias. The mainstream media is far less happy to see a left-wing organization exposed as a criminal fraud, especially one so closely connected to the left-wing president in which they have so much invested.
But there is more to it than that.
O’Keefe and Giles represent the kind of new reality that threatens the very existence of media dinosaurs like the Washington Post. These two individuals, ages 25 and 20, respectively, met on Facebook, got to talking about ACORN and decided to travel the country dressed as a pimp and a hooker, shoot some secret videos and – if they found anything good – post them on YouTube.
With the help of Andrew Brietbart and his burgeoning web site BigGovernment.com, the videos became an instant viral sensation. But with all due respect to Brietbart, who does excellent work and is a solid journalist in his own right, I wonder if his involvement was even necessary.
If O’Keefe and Giles had merely posted the videos on YouTube and e-mailed some of the leading conservative bloggers, they would have been just as big a sensation. That’s how information is spread these days, and that may be the even bigger reason their expose upsets the establishment media.
Though of course, as Breitbart himself writes in his latest Washington Times column, the result could have been even further stonewalling from the state-run media, or an immediate drive-by hit on the character of O’Keefe and Giles:
Once the American public saw with its own eyes the grotesque, common practices of ACORN’s housing offices, Mr. O’Keefe and Miss Giles could no longer be a legitimate focus of media scrutiny. Kill the messenger doesn’t work with the American people when they realize that the message is so devastating and honest. I think the video exposed the misuse of public funds and systemic manipulation of the tax code in the name of “helping the poor.”
If Mr. O’Keefe dumped the videos on YouTube, the political powers would have killed the expose before it got traction. I half-joked that he should secretly tape pitching the major television networks exclusive use of his videos for their nightly news broadcasts. But a simpler, less controversial method proved as fruitful.
I told him that in addition to launching his compelling and stylized Web videos, we needed to offer the full transcripts and audio to the public in the name of transparency, and to offer Fox News the full footage of each video before each was released.We had to devise a plan that would force the media to see the evidence before they had enough time to destroy these two idealistic 20-something truth seekers. Mr. O’Keefe agreed to post the full audio and full transcript of his video experiences at BigGovernment.com.
Thus was born a multimedia, multiplatform strategy designed to force the reluctant hands of ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post.
There are lots of stories that percolate through the conservative Blogosphere and/or become “underground” viral videos via YouTube. But they’re very often bottled up by the gatekeepers of the legacy media. For the moment, Breitbart seems to have found a way to break that logjam, and remind the viewers at home who care about such things, how much information they’re not being told.
Related: “Strangers to Dissent, Liberals Try to Stifle It”, Michael Barone adds.
Related: “We’re being out-Alinskyed by the anti-Alinskys’ — Ben Jealous, NAACP president, on the ACORN story and other conservative Internet exposes.”
Update (9/22/09): The Post retracts their modified limited hangout, adding this correction above the article, albeit in teeny-tiny type:
This article about the community organizing group ACORN incorrectly said that a conservative journalist targeted the organization for hidden-camera videos partly because its voter-registration drives bring Latinos and African Americans to the polls. Although ACORN registers people mostly from those groups, the maker of the videos, James E. O’Keefe, did not specifically mention them.
Moe Lane adds:
While I’m glad to see that the Washington Post has retracted the racism charges made by their staff writers Darryl Fears & Carol Leonnig, it would be better if the newspaper did not permit such charges to be alleged without cause in the first place. Such activities are completely unsuitable for a national newspaper – particularly one that prides itself on objective news reporting.