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Hillary Clinton’s political operation is accelerating the collapse of mainstream media 10/15/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Investigative journalism.

Today, the news media completely missed the real story behind the launch of an insidious entity that the NY Times breathlessly claimed would bring us “a new kind of journalism.” Billionaires Herbert and Marion Sandler, who the Times identifies as “major Democrat political donors and critics of President Bush,” have set-up a non-profit called “Pro Publica” that will provide “investigative journalism” to mainstream outlets at no cost. Allegedly, this is a public service allowing quality investigative journalism to continue even though news outlets are increasingly unable to afford it.

This is a dangerous development. As I’ve posted before, “investigative journalism” was born as part-marketing gimmick, part-freak show in 1835 when a flamboyant editor came-up with the outlandish idea that untrained reporters might do better than detectives in solving a titillating crime involving the violent murder of a prostitute. Since then, this type of journalism has likely done more harm than good, often destroying the careers and personal lives of innocents, who have been persecuted without the protection of the rules and restraints of our legal systems.

So now that news outlets will begin spinning-off reporting and concentrate on editing (“Plug ‘n Play Journalism“), we apparently will also see the emergence of partisan, vigilante, hit-job organizations to do the jobs news outlets won’t do. Worse still, they’ll be masquerading as objective, responsible members of the press and demand the same respect and legal protections. For instance, Pro Publica’s Board Members are not ideologically balanced at all — they range from left to far-left. You can even see the tell-tale plausible deniability they have cleverly built into the Board by appointing Republican-in-name-only (RINO) former Congressman Jim Leach, who compiled an anti-war and pro-global government voting record that would likely put him well to the left of most Democrats. Does anyone who did not fall-off a turnip truck yesterday imagine that this organization will target Republicans and Democrats equally? Or that they will resist trying to orchestrate the weekend-before-the-election hit job on the Republican candidate that we see every four years?

But the biggest losers will be mainstream outlets, whose public image gets burned every time they freelance their story ideas and credibility to often reckless partisan organizations, as they did a couple of weeks ago chasing clearly erroneous complaints by Media Matters for America against Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. My prediction is that the Associated Press will go for the bait and work with Pro Publica, filling its members’ papers with harsh, left-to-center-left material that will turn-off readers, while Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp with its Wall Street Journal will be savvy enough not to touch it. In the end, mainstream news outlets will end-up with fewer reporters, less credibility, and smaller audiences. And Hillary Clinton will be laughing all the way to the White House.

UPDATE: Investors Business Daily seems to agree in this editorial.


1. Bob Jones - 10/15/07

So to summarize:
Fox good for being biased,
AP bad for being biased.

Seems it might not be bias that you dislike but the direction it points.

2. Steve Boriss - 10/16/07

Bob, No, that’s not right. The future of news is biased and that is a good thing. There will be a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. News outlets will not through their own ignorance of the left-right spectrum or deceit try to convince us that objectivity is possible or that they, or anyone else, can deliver it. Everyone will have the same rights to free speech and a free press, and no one will have more rights to break laws than others. News consumers will decide who the winners are, not the government or special interests. This is the ideal vision, and I hope we can achieve 70-80% of it. Government will be the biggest obstacle.

3. Larry Hallas - 10/16/07

Speaking of FOX, they just started their own business channel designed to directly speak to “The People” rather than specialists and full-time traders.

Lo and Behold, the AP ‘likes it, they really like it’!

This has little to do with the bias argument above, and more to do with trying to provide a venue for people to understand things better – but making people think and decide on their own? That’s a common thread…

4. Dave Mastio - 10/17/07

Building on your point about the billionaires in the post, check this out:


(saw it on Romenesko).

Notice there is no mention of the political agenda behind this journalism group.

And by the way, judging from their four state efforts, they really know what they are doing. The sites are simple and attractive and their method of working with existing local talent that agrees with their point of view has quickly made their sites in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado among each state’s most influential blogs. (I follow such things at http://www.blognetnews.com)

5. Steve Boriss - 10/17/07

Dave, Actually, I would be a lot more more comfortable if they did mention that there was a political agenda behind this group. As Jack Shafer from Slate discusses, the Sandler’s motives are suspicious, and the NY Times provides this Sandler quote that is jam-packed with leftish ideology, “All of my life I’ve been driven crazy whenever I encounter corruption, malfeasance, mendacity, but particularly where those in power take advantage of those who have few resources.” But the bigger point to me is, in a free society do we really want to encourage amateur persecutors of individuals’ lives, hiding behind the cloak of respectable investigative journalism? If someone has committed a crime, let’s leave that to professional investigators and our legal system, not billionaires who might be willing to destroy personal reputations to suit their personal political agendas using amateurs, that is, journalists and not professional detectives, lawyers, or forensic experts. Even if Pro Publica is squeaky clean, which I doubt, it is an ugly precedent that I suspect we soon will regret.

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