As Clay Waters writes at Newsbusters, “NY Times Whines That ‘Partisans Adopt Deceit As a Tactic,’ Ignore Hidden Camera Hoaxes By NPR, ABC:”
The New York Times provided decent front-page coverage of the emerging scandal that took down top executives at National Public Radio, a hidden-camera sting that caught top fundraiser Ron Schiller making prejudicial remarks against Republicans in general and the Tea Party movement in particular. The backlash resulted in the resignation of Ron Schiller as well as NPR President and chief executive Vivian Schiller (no relation).
But Times media reporter Jeremy Peters took an incomplete look at the recent rash of hidden-camera hoaxes on Saturday under the strongly worded headline “Partisans Adopt Deceit As a Tactic for Reports.” Peters falsely implied that “gotcha” journalism had faded from view, ignoring two recent examples in the mainstream media, one from NPR itself.
Peters focused on three recent incidents, two involving conservatives taping liberal groups caught embarrassing themselves and getting results – Lila Rose’s sting of Planned Parenthood resulted in the firing of a clinic manager, and James O’Keefe’s hidden-camera hoax of NPR executives supposedly meeting with a Muslim group resulted in a boardroom meltdown. Also, a leftist journalist posed as billionaire philanthropist Koch to try and embarrass Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, to little effect.
The reporter in disguise has largely faded from mainstream American journalism. But the tactic is alive and well in the hands of passionate partisans.
As their pursuit of the “gotcha” moment has become part of the cost of life in the public eye, one question is how willing politicians will be to advance their agendas on the backs of these muckrakers 2.0.
In just the last month, surreptitiously recorded conversations have embarrassed NPR and Planned Parenthood, organizations long under assault from conservatives, as well as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican and target of the political left for his anti-union stance.
The latest episode came this week, when the conservative provocateur James O’Keefe released a video that included an NPR fund-raiser who makes disparaging remarks about the Tea Party. This led to the resignation of the radio network’s chief executive, Vivian Schiller.
Defensible or not, use of the tactics seems to be growing.
But in fretting over the journalistic ethics of these stunts, Peters ignored hidden-camera reports by mainstream journalists, including a recent one from NPR itself. The Media Research Center’s Alex Fitzsimmons noted an NPR correspondent employed the same tactics used by O’Keefe, going incognito for a sting operation aimed at exposing U.S. border agents who target Muslims for “interrogation” for the March 10 “Morning Edition.” And MRC’s Scott Whitlock documented how the undercover ABC News show “What Would You Do?” searches for bigotry across America.
I love that line that “The reporter in disguise has largely faded from mainstream American journalism.” The reason why is that budget cutbacks by the MSM in the face of their readers — on both sides of the aisle — retreating to more partisan sites whose ideologies are out on the open (as the Times is only occasionally) have made such forms of journalism prohibitively expensive for old media. In much the same way that the long form New Journalism of the 1960s and ’70s has increasingly vanished, since old media can’t afford to pay writers what journalists of the old era made.
But as always, please show me the articles from the Times (on either coast) that complain about the investigative journalism of 60 Minutes, and then we’ll talk.
Or as I wrote a week ago, “Investigative Journalism: It’s All Fun and Games until the MSM Gets Stung.”