How low has American journalism sunk? The New York Times put out a cattle call for readers to help it paw through Sarah Palin’s email, while its own spokeswoman was firmly informing the Daily Caller it would never do anything like that.
“The New York Times has not asked for readers to help with an investigation,” spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha told the Caller, even as the Times ran a story called “Help Us Review the Sarah Palin Email Records.” Its long, obsessive love affair with Big Government has caused the Times to gaze overlong into the abyss, and become Big Government: a bloated, clueless bureaucracy whose right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.
The emails in question are being released by the State of Alaska, covering correspondence from Palin’s state email account during her tenure as Governor, up to September 2008. According to an article at the Politico, the trove will also include “email from her personal account to state employees.” I would imagine that’s the stuff our friends at the house organs of the Democrat Party really want to run their fingers through.
They’ll need a lot of fingers, since the email drop runs about 25,000 pages, and will be delivered in five 50-pound boxes. Accordingly, the New York Times and Washington Post put out a call for readers to “help us identify interesting and newsworthy emails, people, and events that we may want to highlight,” as the Times put it. All sorts of wacky hijinks will doubtless ensue.
If you’re thinking this is a huge mistake, because the media will be expected to do the same thing with the next 50-pound box of documents it acquires about a prominent Democrat, think again. The journalistic disasters that result from the Palin email crowdsource will be cited as a reason to refrain from doing this to a Democrat. Media big shots will sadly concede they were led to many “false stories” during all the “confusion.” Then, when they have another chance to enlist a horde of Daily Kos types to run through a Republican’s correspondence, they’ll say they’ve improved their journalistic practices so much since the Palin Email Piranha Attack that it’s time to try this “bold experiment” again.
The laziness and partisanship of the mainstream media are on full display with this “crowdsourcing” project. As Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller marveled, the Times and Post have given up “even pretending to be news organizations,” but are now a full-time “opposition research arm of the Democratic Party.” He echoes my first thought when hearing about this little project: “Just imagine if they had put this kind of effort into analyzing… I dunno… ObamaCare?” Too bad helpful citizens couldn’t have been recruited to go through all that expensive legislation Democrats had to pass without reading, before the Speaker’s gavel was taken away from Nancy Pelosi!
Palin herself is sanguine about the document drop, saying in a Fox News appearance that “every rock in the Palin household that could ever be kicked over and uncovered anything, it’s already been kicked over.”
The Governor underestimates the power of media indolence, which is a primary component of media bias. It doesn’t matter if these emails are wholly innocent. Some of the more excitable “volunteers” will concoct more interesting stories, and the Times or Post will run them uncritically, the same way they increasingly turn to nutroots fever-swamp blogs and unedited Democrat press releases for news guidance. We just watched them do this during the Anthony Weiner scandal, before Andrew Breitbart forced them to start covering the actual news.
Retractions and corrections might be run later, but the damage will be done. Remember, there are people who still attribute lines from Tina Fey comedy sketches to Sarah Palin, and advance them as evidence Palin is stupid.
Palin fans are gamely trying to get spots on the Times and Post volunteer rosters, in an effort to bring some balance to the proceedings. That may prove to be an illuminating adventure, and help them prepare to counter slanted stories, but it won’t have much effect on the news judgment of those who decide which reader “finds” are worth spinning into stories. This “crowdsourcing” effort wouldn’t be such a big deal if there was any reason to trust that news judgment.