Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rightwing "Investigative" Journalism is a failure

National Public Radio has recently fired its President as a direct result of the fraudulently edited so-called expose by the conservative provocateur James O'Keefe. O'Keefe is attempting to duplicate his earlierdestruction of the community organization ACORN with a video edited to the point of outright lies. But this is not just an individual with a desire to get personal publicity. This is a well-funded propaganda operation by the extreme right-wing, following in the Republican tradition of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. Steve Benen writes about the right-wing attempts at investigative journalism.
Looking back over the last several decades, most of the time, quality investigative journalism has come from mainstream news organizations and left-leaning outlets like The Nation and Mother Jones. The right, historically, has avoided this kind of work, preferring to create outlets like Fox News, National Review, and the Weekly Standard.

Whether you find those conservative outlets valuable or not, it's fair to say investigative journalism isn't part of their m.o. The Republican-friendly outlets just don't do in-depth, shoe-leather journalism to break major news stories.

Over the last couple of years, conservatives have begun taking steps to change this, bolstered by far-right financial backing. What's wrong with this? In theory, nothing. Investigative journalism can play a valuable role in holding officials accountable and ensuring transparency. If folks on the right want to do some digging and turn up malfeasance, more power to them.

The problem isn't that conservatives are doing investigative journalism. The problem is that conservatives haven't figured out how to do investigative journalism especially well.

Laura McGann had a great piece on this in the Monthly last year, noting that "conservative investigative journalism tends to produce reports that are wrong," a problem compounded by the fact that while their efforts are ostensibly about improving transparency, the far-right activism is nearly always shrouded in secrecy.

This is bound to continue, but there's no reason for the mainstream to take it seriously.

So to call what the right-wing does investigative journalism is to mistake form for actual fact. Simply to go underground and take videos is not investigative journalism. That is especially true when the raw material is edited into an outright lie.

What is most telling about the O'Keefe efforts is that they expose the fact that conservativism is based on a series of lies. It cannot stand in the face of honest inquiry and real questions, so it resorts to make up propaganda spread by its own limited lying propagand outlets such as FOX News, the American Standard, the Washington Times, and others.

So why do the mainstream news outlets buy O'Keefe's crap? Anything sourced to O'Keefe is clearly a lie. Treating it as legitimate news is to simply debase the news profession as a whole.

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