Here’s an interesting take from Jack Safer, Slate’s media critic, on the ACORN video story:
The primary take-away from the videos, as best as I can discern, is that a shocking number of low-level ACORN employees think that helping to relocate houses of prostitution is part of the group’s agenda. Such an oblique, rambling point is interesting enough by my measure to qualify as news.
The critics of Breitbart and the filmmakers don’t really dispute the basic information unearthed by the videos. Instead, they take issue with the duo’s spectrum of deception or their political motives in pursuing ACORN. The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America complains that the ACORN videos, which aren’t a “major story,” are driving an “incomplete, misleading” media stampede.
But Media Matters is wrong. Independent news organizations, including the Washington Post, the New York Post, and the Baltimore Sun, are chasing the ACORN story not because they’ve been bamboozled by the Breitbart exposé but because the dress-up stunt has pointed them toward what could be fertile grounds for wrongdoing.
If you think Breitbart has corrupted the press, then you probably think he’s done the same to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service, too. Today’s (Sept. 23) Washington Post reports that the bureau, citing a lack of confidence in ACORN, has dumped the organization as a partner in the 2010 count, and just coming over the wires is news that the IRS has dismissed ACORN from its volunteer tax-assistance program. Next to shed ACORN will be oak trees everywhere. You read it here first.
Would Washington or the press be giving ACORN a second look if Breitbart, O’Keefe, and Giles’ prank hadn’t revealed the, um, unknown dimension of the organization? I doubt it. And that brings me back to my original observation: One of the great strengths of American journalism is that it will accept contributions from everybody from amateurs to entertainers (I’m looking at you, Jon Stewart) to gadflies to billionaires to activists to students to genocidal tyrants. The system is so delightfully open that even pornographers can spill worthwhile journalistic ink. That Breitbart comes swinging a political ax should bother nobody, unless the journalism published in Mother Jones, The Nation, the Huffington Post, Salon, the New Republic, the American Prospect, Reason, the Weekly Standard, or the National Review gives them similar fits. Viewing the world through an ideological lens can sometimes help a journalist to discover a story.
Great points. We read a lot about how terrible the world will be as newspapers continue their decline. Hogwash. There’s plenty of jouranlists out there — on both sides of the ideological isle — to keep democracy safe.