“News organizations mobilized teams of reporters and even recruited online volunteers to scan more than 24,000 pages of e-mails from Sarah Palin that were released on Friday, prompting some critics to accuse the news media of overkill at best and vigilantism at worst…
“The New York Times and The Guardian sent reporters armed with scanners and then solicited readers’ assistance. Politico enlisted a dozen editors, reporters and interns who worked as a team from their Northern Virginia newsroom ‘plowing through’ the documents, as one editor described it. The Washington Post initially asked for 100 volunteers to sift through the documents. They were quickly overwhelmed with too many applicants. Unable to screen all of them, the paper abandoned the plan late Thursday, opting instead to invite reader comments…
“‘This is not a witch hunt,’ said Jim Roberts, an assistant managing editor at The Times. ‘There are 25,000 documents here, and we can use all the eyeballs we can get.'”
“The spectacle on Friday was unusual even for Palin, who is known for her ability to inspire a media frenzy. Eager to be the first to post the messages online, news outlets — including The Post — dispatched reporters armed with scanners to Juneau for the 9 a.m. release of the e-mails, which were not distributed electronically but in stacks of printed paper…
“Even some liberal journalists pondered the public-interest value of the exercise as early as Friday morning.
“‘Don’t get me wrong. There’s always some nominal value in paging through the communiques of a public figure, and Palin — who’s been as public a figure as any — is a good candidate for this attention,’ wrote Jason Linkins, a media reporter for the Huffington Post, before the e-mails had been released. ‘But it’s really not hard to think that the joke might somehow be on us.'”
“Transparency advocates doubtlessly breathed a sigh of satisfaction that sunlight-disinfectant was being applied to a government figure. And people with any sense of political proportion were left with an additional thought: When is this journalistic scrutiny going to be applied to politicians who wield actual power?
“For instance, one might nominate the president of the United States for such attention…
“Did you know that a reported dozen armed agents kicked down a guy’s door at 6 a.m. this week in Stockton, California, and handcuffed him in his boxer shorts in front of his three bawling pre-teen kids — to execute a search warrant for the Department of Education involving suspected loan fraud by his allegedly estranged wife? You wouldn’t if you get your news from the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, or L.A. Times, California’s biggest newspapers.
“But fear not! Now we know that “The ‘First Dude’ played a particularly influential role in the administration” of a short-term, small-state governor. The lessons for Michelle Obama, then, are clear: If you want the non-Amtrak media to give you attention, they’re going to need to hate your husband a little more.”
“Of course Governor Palin was a public servant (Governor), so she, as a public servant, should be subjected to scrutiny and to the same rules and vigorous scrutiny as other politicians. We need to know about our public servants and all of them. That includes Governor Palin. No one – including Govenor Palin – should get a pass. It makes sense to spend resources to report about her – including reviewing her work – but of course it should be commensurate with how other public servants are reported and commensurate with its importance. It should be good, smart aggressive and thorough journalism – not more, not less. One question you might ask, is she getting about the same treatment as other politicians under about the same circumstances? If not, why not?
If however a news organization is seen as having a bad motive – ie on a mission to destroy someone rather than trying to assemble noteworthy information and report – it is not journalism but something else. Palin should not get ‘special treatment’ or a ‘media colonoscopy’ simply because the media can’t get enough of her …doesn’t like her…or thinks it will spike readership or viewers to cover her. If the foregoing are the reasons for hiring the extra help to go through her emails (the outsourcing) the public is better served by the Post and the Times (and others) using their resources chasing down other stories….for instance pouring over documents showing exactly where the dollars are going that are being spent on defense contractors in Afghanistan.”