ACORN and "Journalistic Standards"

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Nov 28, 2009 4:58 PM
The LA Times' James Rainey writes in his "On Media" column about how the reporting of Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe doesn't stand up to the "standards of journalism."

That may be true -- but it takes a lot of nerve to make that claim with a straight face.  Especially if you work for the LA Times, which wears its left-wing politics on its sleeve and frequently pays the price for it in reduced credibility.

Rainey castigates Giles and O'Keefe for failing to get ACORN's side of the story.  But what does he have to say -- just to take one example -- of the LA Times' decision to run a story alleging mistreatment of women by Arnold Schwarzenegger right before the gubernatorial election in 2003?  Democrat Susan Estrich (a professor of law and expert on gender law) pointed out that "Anonymous charges from years ago made in the closing days of a campaign undermine fair politics."  That strikes me as a violation of "journalistic standards," too.  Yet the Times never apologized.

There are so many examples of misreporting and bias that it would take an eternity to lay it all out.  But just to get a little closer to home, how 'bout The New York Times' decision to "cut bait" on a story about Obama's links to ACORN?  Anyone think a story that might have damaged, say, Sarah Palin would have been abandoned so readily?  (Not if the AP has anything to say about it!)

At the moment, the real journalistic scandal surrounding the press and ACORN has nothing to do with Giles and O'Keefe.  Rather, it's how the mainstream press allowed an obviously corrupt organization to continue to operate in the political arena, accepting taxpayer money, with virtually no reporting on its routine illegalities.

This ACORN story that Giles and O'Keefe got was out in the open for every big MSM organization to see.  They could have embedded an undercover reporter as a member of ACORN, or done any other countless number of things.  And it's hard to believe that, if, say, Operation Rescue had been accused of the kinds of corruption and law-breaking that have longbeen linked with ACORN, the MSM would have politely looked away.

Rainey needs to understand that if he's worried about hard-hitting stories been reported in conformity with "journalistic standards," well, maybe then the press had better start doing some investigative work of its own -- and not just directed against one side of the political spectrum.  Nature abhors a vacuum;  now that the internet allows regular people to publicize the stories that the MSM conveniently overlooks, this is going to happen more and more.