October 27, 2011

Project Veritas
In the second installment of his “To Catch a Journalist” series, James O’Keefe has produced a surreptitiously recorded, heavily edited video starring NYU professors Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen. In the video Shirky likens NPR’s program sponsorships to advertising and discusses news coverage of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Occupy Wall Street and Michele Bachmann. O’Keefe claims the video shows Shirky and Rosen discussing “the New York Times’ strategy to support Occupy Wall Street, Obama’s 2008 election and their place within the ‘chardonnay swilling’ so-called media elite.” O’Keefe calls Shirky a New York Times consultant, but Eileen Murphy, vice president of corporate communications for The New York Times, says that’s not true. “We have looked into it and I can tell you he is not now and has never been a consultant to The New York Times,” she says. Rosen has only a bit part in which he follows up on Shirky’s statement that the people in the room are media elites by saying, “We are the 1 percent.” Other than a student referring to something that Times media reporter Brian Stelter said, no one from the Times is in the video.

If you’re familiar with O’Keefe’s work and Shirky’s expansive talks, you know you can’t rely on a collage of 30-second clips to get the true meaning of Shirky’s comments. (O’Keefe says in the video that the full transcript is on his site, but if it’s there I can’t find it; I asked him on Twitter where it is.) For instance, O’Keefe claims the video shows the Times’ unwillingness to cover Bachmann, but Shirky says in the video that the Times was compelled to cover her campaign because the Iowa straw poll was considered important. When Shirky talks about Occupy Wall Street coverage, it’s impossible to know if he’s just commenting on the coverage as an outsider or — as O’Keefe claims — he’s discussing the Times’ strategy to help the protesters. (If the Times surreptitiously supported the protests by not covering them, I think the debate over liberal media bias looks like a Möbius strip: Whatever side you start on, you end up in the same place.) Rosen tweeted that he’d respond to the video later Thursday. Update: Jay Rosen explains how someone posing as a prospective grad student taped a class and asked him how to get a tape of a tea party gathering to the Times. Reaction: NPR’s David Folkenflik: “So far looks an awful lot like ‘to catch a J school prof.’ ” || Related: What James O’Keefe knows about media (and you should too) || Earlier: Huffington Post’s Sam Stein first target of O’Keefe’s ‘To Catch a Journalist’ | James O’Keefe to New York Times reporter: ‘How can I be sure you’ll be objective and accurate?’

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Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens,…
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