How the Texas Tribune Will Cover James O’Keefe’s Latest Video (Update: I Told You So) BUMPED
February 19, 2014 - 5:01 pm
James O’Keefe has released another bombshell video. In his latest, his hidden cameras capture Battleground Texas Field Organizer Jennifer Langoria admitting that once Battleground Texas registers Texans to vote, the group then turns around and takes their personal information for the group’s political use.
That’s against Texas election law.
The Texas Tribune is a non-profit news gathering organization that bills itself as non-partisan. It has come under serious and sustained criticism recently for getting a sweetheart deal to cover a fundraiser and speech by Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. The news content it generates is syndicated all over Texas, for free, to local news outlets, which calls into question its non-profit status — it’s not supposed to be in competition with for-profit news organizations.
When it comes to hidden camera video that makes Democrats and their allies look bad, the Tribune consistently handles such videos in a backhanded way.
Take a look at how it covered this 2010 video, of then Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) having a meltdown in front of his constituents a few months before the 2010 election. The Tribune took several hours before it even covered the video. By the time the Tribune covered the clip, it had already been posted on blogs and news sites and discussed on talk radio for hours. The Tribune buried the breaking, newsworthy video under a body of content and several updates, and couched the video as something conservatives were spreading around. The Trib downplayed Rodriguez’s actions in the video itself, actions which were the heart of the story. The Trib’s headline gives their game away.
Rodriguez’s actions in the clip are the story, not who was “circulating” it. The Trib took a breaking, sexy story in which a Democrat looked bad and gave it as dull as headline as they could, and then buried the video at the bottom of the story — after accusing conservatives of “circulating” the clip. The message the Trib sent is straightforward — conservatives are the bad guys for pointing out that a Democrat lost his marbles in public.
Now take a look at how the Tribune covered O’Keefe’s video of Wendy Davis supporters caught on tape mocking Texas AG Greg Abbott for being in a wheelchair. The Trib’s headline:
The video shows the supporters mocking Abbott. The group didn’t have to “claim” anything. There was one cheeky edit of a laugh in the video, but Davis’ supporters said what they said.
By the way, good luck finding either of these stories quickly on the Trib.
If the Texas Tribune stays true to form, it will not cover the O’Keefe video at all at first. When it does get around to covering the video, it will neuter the contents of the clip as much as it possibly can. Battleground Texas’ actions will not be the subject of the story — James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas will be the subject. The tone of the story will suggest that O’Keefe, not Battleground Texas, should be suspected of doing something wrong.
Update: The Trib took until the end of the day to publish anything on the video. So, good, they covered it, right? Well, not really. As I noted above, when they have covered previous videos that made Democrats look bad, the Trib neutralized the actual content of the video as much as possible. That in mind, read their story on the latest video. The Tribune handles a video that it cannot avoid covering, with a great deal of tactical awareness of how to underplay the video’s content.
First, they don’t embed the video in their story. They link it, requiring readers to take an extra step to click on the link and then come back to read the rest of their article.
Second, they downplay what the Battleground Texas organizer says in the video. They write all around that content — which is the heart of the story — with quotes from a number of other people, plus hints that James O’Keefe is a bad person. They cap the story off by quoting a Democrat Party lawyer who defends Battleground Texas. What a surprise! And then they finish with a Democrat talking point about voting rates in the state.
Capping all of that, the Trib headlines the piece as blandly as possible — “Battleground Texas Activities Draw Questions.” Yawn.
The Texas Tribune has once again played its partisan hand.
More: There is another problem with the Trib’s coverage. The photo atop the story is not a photo of the Battleground Texas organizer, or James O’Keefe, or Wendy Davis. It’s a photo of the Texas secretary of state. She is not really the driver of the video. But by writing her into the lead, the Trib can justify the photo placement, which conveniently moves the most obvious photo choice — a screenshot of the BGTX organizer — off the top, and out of sight altogether.