When the NPR story broke last Tuesday, before anyone had been fired and the hubbub had became yet another quick, hot battle in the protracted culture wars, we suggested that journalists and commentators pause, slow down, and take a breather.
From where might we have learned such a lesson? From video scandals past. Think ACORN and think Shirley Sherrod: job- and organization-crippling scandals in which the media blindly aided and abetted. Note too that O’Keefe is a political point-scorer, and here he is scoring from a soft-target.
We knew all of this, and yet few of us slowed down. Including the NPR brass.
It is telling that The Blaze was the first to point out O’Keefe’s context-stripping editing and that its report came out two days after O’Keefe’s video release. (And, yes, we at CJR should have been doing just as The Blaze did, searching for the discrepancies they found.) It’s telling because, as The Blaze showed, it takes time to vet a source.
We can only hope that, next time, the order in which this scandal and others like it have unfolded—headlines and drama first; reporting and vetting later—is reversed. Given the pattern that just repeated itself, we’re not optimistic.