Jackass Journalism

Jackass Journalism


In the interest in serving up a heaping helping of current event meat on the Donklephant table, here is what memorandum informs us is the story of the day. There are many posts and stories to choose from, but we’ll go with the Weigel description:

“The video sting artiste publishes the latest work from his shop — a covertly taped interview with then-NPR Foundation senior VP for development Ron Schiller and current senior director of institutional giving Betsy Liley. Shaughn Adeleye and Simon Templar posed as members of a wealthy Muslim education foundation “founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood,” and taped the NPR representatives — largely Schiller — answering them with exactly what they wanted to hear… Schiller is a professional fundraiser, not a journalist. His pandering to the group is actually sort of masterful.”

I can’t get too worked up about this latest episode of Jackass Journalism* – The art of pranking political opposition in the hope of getting stupid and embarrassing quotes on tape (with extra credit for reinforcing your teams worst stereotypes of the other team).

I put this particular clip in the same category as the prank call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. What did we learn from these “expose’s”? We learn that politicians and professional fundraisers are willing to pander and pretend to agree with whatever comes out of the mouth of potential contributors with big checkbooks. I’m shocked… shocked. Oh – we also learned that Ron Schiller and Scott Walker are dicks.

The only potential policy issue here is the federal funding of NPR. Frankly I don’t see how or why this should have any impact on that debate. It is interesting that Schiller says NPR does not really need the funding, but he also said he was speaking only for himself and not NPR. Personally, I don’t think there is any particularly good reason for taxpayers to fund this organization. But in terms of the actual level of funding, it is meaningless and a distraction from the very real budget crisis we are facing. I would far prefer to see our legislators working to solve the real problem – entitlements, rather than debating the merits of funding NPR.

We’ll get to the real issues eventually. One way or the other.

*BTW – I believe I am the first to use the term “Jackass Journalism” in this context, and am afraid I must insist on attribution whenever and wherever it is used from now until forever. Yes you can google some random earlier uses, but this is the right name for the O’keefe style.

Cross-post at Divided We Stand United We Fall

  • http://www.whatweshouldknowblog.com Centerist Cynic

    This is red meat to satisfy some far right base somewhere I guess. This video tries to “prove” the argument that NPR really is left wing and it is a Democratic attempt to turn the country against conservatives and the Tea Party. It also feeds the belief that the Democrats are wasting billions in tax revenues and if this waste could just be cut out, the budget would be balanced without cutting the military or Medicare or raising taxes.

    While I can see the need for NPR, with a budget deficit of about $1.5 trillion it is a waste of time to talk about this at best. At its worst it is a distraction from the real issues that need to be addressed.

  • kranky kritter

    Actually, it’s called “gotcha” journalism. Stings aren’t a new thing, nor is fishing for jackasses. That it’s being practiced by folks with a particular axe to grind doesn’t change the “gotcha” aspect, but it calls into question whether it’s really journalism. I guess it’s yellow gotcha.

    Clearly, partisans want this to mean something more and prove something more than it does. That said, I don’t question the notion that NPR leans demonstrably left.

    It won’t bother me much if NPR or PBS loses more or all public funding. If they really want to be “viewer supported television” or “listener-supported radio” then they should drop the teat. The best part of that happening is that the right will have no choice but to stop whining about the piddling amounts NPR gets to produce lots of good work that is occasionally polluted by liberal weenie-ism.

  • gerryf

    I have no problem with cutting all funding for PBS and NPR and will gladly double my annual contributions to the organizations.

    Only partly related…can we also stop calling Fox a news organization?

  • bubbaquimby

    I call Fox “news entertainment”, like the WWE is sports entertainment.

    The big difference between them and MSNBC is that Fox’s whole broadcast is news entertainment while MSNBC is just at night.

  • kranky kritter

    That’s a great response, Gerry. They’re already primarily supported by viewers, I think, so why not go the rest of the way and end the issue? Everyone would win. The day after funding ended, we could all tell the right to STFU about PBS, That’s priceless, am I right?

    I really like some of what PBS does. I’d probably give them money too if I felt that I would have actual input. You know, if I could be sure the money I donated went primarily towards something specific I liked. And I’d be willing, to say, make a donation if it permitted me to watch a specific program without interruption, bypassing the begging. So if I am watching Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King, I can pay $2 and I get to go right back to the show.

    Instead of worrying whether Fox or any other news organization fits some high standard for objectivity over bias, I think we’re all better off understanding that yellow journalism has always been closer to being the rule than the exception. The dominance of the semi-pretense of journalistic objectivity, though an admirable ideal, is an historical aberration.

    Fox has a well-known bias that it often applies to facts. And it gets to decide what it thinks deserves coverage and prominence. Though we can argue about relative extent, all news organizations enjoy such power. [So let’s skip the “but Fox is way worse” debate. You’re sure they are, I see no profit in dwelling on the scorekeeping,. We can agree to disagree there, right?]

    I don’t really object to the existence of news organizations that identify a political choir and then preach to it with devotion. It’s up to all of us to remain aware of it and be active editors of news content, no matter where it comes from. And those of us who support journalism which strives to attain the ideal of objectivity? We get to vote with our eyes, our clickers, our feet, our voices, our keyboards, our blogs.

    IMO, CNN seems to be hitting a pretty good stride these days, with notable exceptions, primarily at night. Spitzer and Morgan are the biggest fails, but then that’s not news per se, it’s explicitly opinion.

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    “Actually, it’s called “gotcha” journalism.” – kk

    Mr. Kritter, I rise in support of the proposition that “Jackass Journalism” is a distinct genre from “”Gotcha Journalism.”

    To me, “Gotcha Journalism” has a different nature. It requires someone approximating a real journalist on one end of the interaction, and comes in the form of superficially simple and possibly irrelevant question directed at a politician. Examples would be asking presidential candidate George W Bush in 2000 if he could name four prime ministers of other countries. Or Chris Mathews asking Obama Supporter Texas Senator Kirk Watson to name one Barack Obama legislative accomplishment. Or Katie Couric asking Sarah Palin what newspapers she reads. Well – this last may not qualify. That should have been considered a softball question. In retrospect Couric lucked out and it was a “gotcha”.

    The key characteristic of a “gotcha” question, is that even if you think the question is unfair and irrelevant, you come away thinking – “You know- he/she probably should have been able to answer that.”

    In contrast, “Jackass Journalism”, like Jackass the movies, has at it’s core – a prank. “Jackass” – in and of itself – does not necessarily carry a negative connotation in this context. After all, since they’ve now made three Jackass moves, with no end in sight, there must be a lot of people out there who actually like the notion of Jackass pranks.

    Finally, besides being based on a jackass prank, an additional criteria for qualifying as “Jackass Journalism”, is that there must be an obvious jackass on both sides of the camera (or the phone line). A quasi-credible journalist is not required.

  • Chris

    Sucks that he had to quit for telling the truth though.

  • kranky kritter

    On the way up was a bridge over a cascading stream they had to cross; and under the bridge lived a great ugly troll , with eyes as big as saucers, and a nose as long as a poker.

    So first of all came the youngest Billy Goat Gruff to cross the bridge.

    “Trip, trap, trip, trap! ” went the bridge.

    “Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” roared the troll .

    “Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff , and I’m going up to the hillside to make myself fat,” said the billy goat, with such a small voice.

    “Now, I’m coming to gobble you up,” said the troll.

    “Oh, no! pray don’t take me. I’m too little, that I am,” said the billy goat. “Wait a bit till the second Billy Goat Gruff comes. He’s much bigger.”

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    Spoken like a true mindless partisan. Well done. You fill your role well.