Slate claims Media Matters is all wrong about ACORN story

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Defending Andrew Breitbart, Slate's media critic Jack Shafer takes issue Media Matters [emphasis added]:

The critics of [Andrew] 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.

First, note that Shafer never really address our claim that ACORN does not represent a "major story." Shafer himself concedes the undercover ACORN tapes are a "mess," but still trying to prop them up as a big deal he writes:

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.

So the best Shafer can do is suggest that the "rambling point" raised on the tapes regarding "low-level" employees qualifies as "news"? Well, that's not the Media Matters point. We claimed it wasn't a "major story." And Shafer offers up no evidence to refute that position.

Second, Shafer misses the mark when he claims that Media Matters is wrong because the mainstream press is onto a big ACORN story, thanks to Breitbart and friends. That's just not true. Shafer notes the mainstream press has been pointed into the direction of a possible news story about ACORN corruption. But of course, since the ACORN hysteria was launched nearly two weeks ago, no news organization has advanced the story at all. Not one inch. It turns out that corruption ground isn't so "fertile" after all.

All the press has done in recent days is cover the utterly predictable political fallout from the tapes. i.e. It's just another Beltway process story. And this one's about an org that pockets $2-3 million annually from the federal government--probably not enough money to stock the Pentagon with toilet paper for 12 months.

Again, it's not a "major story."

Also note that in his celebration of Breitbart and friends, Shafer looks away form the unseemly brand of pseudo-journalism they practice. For instance, Shafer's oddly mum about the fact that Breitbart's web site is being sued by ACORN for violating privacy laws in Maryland. And while praising the clips, Shafer leaves out the fact that the filmmakers doctored one tape by editing out the portion in which a California ACORN worker refused to cooperate with the pimp-and-prostitute scheme. And of course, none of the released ACORN videos have included any additional context or reporting about the ACORN story.

Meaning, none of them included any actual journalism.

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