Our political Quote of the Day is by the Daily Kos’ Jed Lewison who succinctly nails the difference between reporting what appears to be a scandal and offering information to news consumers and leaping on what appears to be a scandal and quickly pushing it to the hilt for political motives.
He recounts how Gawker checked out a tidbit involving former Rep. Chris Lee sending a shirtless photo of himself to woman who had posted a personal ad on Craigslist. And then he looks at how Andrew Breitbart’s site, backed up by a slew of sympathetic weblogs, did a quick full-court press on the supposed story about high profile Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner supposedly sending a lewd Tweet to a college student — a story that has proved to be bogus. This is not a story where all conservative websites and weblogs can be blamed: for instance, it was notable that Matt Drudge did not hype the “story” and Hot Air only ran links to it but none of it’s respected conservative bloggers picked it up and ran with it. If anything, they were wary given the source — a decision that proved to be wise.
Lewison nails the difference here:
Obviously, Breitbartworld’s post invited comparisons between Weiner and Lee, but the real contrast here is between Breitbart’s site and Gawker. While Gawker took almost a month researching and reporting its story, Breitbart’s gang went on attack immediately, without conducting a single bit of investigation. Strikingly, Breitbart’s website was the only site that got “lucky” enough to capture the screenshot before it was deleted, suggesting the possibility that if someone hacked Weiner’s Twitterfeed they were at the very least in close contact with Breitbart’s operation, if not involved directly in it. At best, Breitbart’s site shot first and asked questions later; at worst, it helped fabricate an attack on Weiner.
Either way, the difference between what Breitbartland did and what Gawker did could not be more clear. One was a political attack, the other was a piece of reporting. One deserved to be ignored, not just by the political media, but by everybody who consumes it; the other was a real story with real political implications. If you doubt that, just look at what happened in NY-26.
There is a big difference between raising questions if something is fishy, pressing for answers, and reporting and the new “journalistic” technique of targeting people who belong to a different party to discredit them.
Reporting isn’t about the thirst to discredit.
It’s the craft of trying to discern.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.