Posted by: Chris | September 11, 2009

A study in contrasts

Here are two recent right-leaning journalistic endeavors:

The first takes on the New York City public schools system and the great wastes made necessary by the teacher’s unions. The second exposes two ACORN officials giving tax evasion and housing advice to a would-be underage brothel.

I don’t know about you guys, but I find the first to be a far more effective “expose” of the intended target and a much better advocate for the respective viewpoint. The second one, despite being more shocking, really fails to persuade the reader about the inherent criminality of ACORN for a number of reasons:

  • First, it only manages to ensnare two low-ranking individuals, who were promptly fired and disowned by the organization.   Had the “journalists” engaged with more ACORN branches and with people higher up the command chain, like the New Yorker piece does, I think it would have been a far more damning argument.  As it stands, it basically looks like ACORN simply hired a couple of bad apples.
  • Secondly, the authors of the second piece invented their own scenerio that had almost no bearing on the charter of ACORN or the dominant areas where the organization as a whole is indicted (housing/voter fraud).  This allows the organization some significant plausible deniablility in saying that the practices filmed where not standard procedure. 
  • Furthermore, by inventing such an absurd scenerio and posing as would-be applicants, it lends an aura of superficiality to the whole proceedings, making it a less powerful indictment of ACORN’s actual practices.  By following a number of actual cases, some just as outlandish as the scenerio filmed, the New Yorker piece is much more persuasive about the fundamental problems plaguing the teachers’ union.
  • Finally, the authors repeatedly injecting themselves into the debate, both in the film and elsewhere, and act like either fools (see pimp outfit) or hackish douchebags, making me feel far more sympathetically for the two women they ensnare, despite agreeing with the authors on the politics.  They should have just let the video stand by itself, much like the New Yorker writer, without the appending a bunch of juvenile vanity trips.

Andrew Breitbart’s website had a decent idea for a good journalistic story with a conservative bent (expose ACORN’s blatant disregard for the law in pursuit of a partisan agenda), but, like much of the right these days, was more interested in shocking the audience and engaging in absurdist partisanship than telling a persuasive story. I suspect there’s a reason these “sting” operations are basically only done by illegitimate local news stations. They really aren’t effective at telling broad stories, making broad points, or finding anything of interest beyond one or two people acting poorly.

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Responses

  1. BTW, I know my post mostly focused on the failings of the second link, but I really cannot emphasize enough how good the first link is.

  2. […] Like It James O’Keefe III, the toolbox known for playing dress-up and pretending to engage in journalism, has a new “expose”, this time of alleged malfeasance at the Census Bureau.  I am not […]


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