When we first talked about the “discovery” of tens of thousands of Lois Lerner e-mails stored on backup tapes, I asked who was going to be doing the scud work of digging through them all. I also suggested that it might better to shop the job out to some bloggers who could make the time and find a fine enough toothed comb to do the job justice. Today, Matt Lewis notes that similar things have been done in the past, particularly when it fit a running media narrative, but he seems skeptical that the same effort will be applied in this case.
[A]fter SNL ran an amusing parody of Schoolhouse Rock to satirize Obama’s order on immigration reform, the Washington Post took it upon themselves to fact check a comedy show. As far as I can tell, this service was not provided after Tina Fey’s line “I can see Russia from my house” helped destroy Palin’s image. And that’s too bad, since Palin never said those words (despite what most Americans might think).
A similar example occurred the other day, when a Friday news dump indicated a trove of 30,000 “lost” emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s had been discovered by the Inspector General. This was from the time when the IRS was targeting conservative groups. The media mostly reported the news with a yawn, only sometimes noting Lerner’s refusal to testify, or to recall just how amazingly coincidental it was that her hard drive just happened to crash in the first place, or previous statements that the emails could not be retrieved and were lost forever, or the absurd notion that a government agency couldn’t logistically retrieve two years worth of “lost” emails.
Now compare that to what happened when Sarah Palin’s emails were released. As Politico reported at the time, “Reporters lined up in Juneau and in front of computers across the country spent the afternoon poring over 24,000 newly released emails from Sarah Palin’s first year and a half as governor, hoping for a bombshell.”
In case you’ve forgotten, it was a huge event. Media outlets “crowd sourced” the project, asking readers to help wade through the 24,000 pages of Palin emails. ABC News live blogged it. You can still go to the Washington Post and “Browse through Sarah Palin’s e-mails from her time as governor of Alaska from 2006-2008, or search by keyword to locate a specific topic.” Ditto NBC News (and I’m guessing a lot of other outlets).
Matt makes an excellent point here in terms of either media bias, or to put it a tad bit more kindly, perhaps media interest. We all – including yours truly – have noted on occasions beyond count, “can you imagine what would happen if a Republican” said, did, or wrote “that?” It’s one of those things that you tend to know in your gut and can find many parallels without too much trouble, but can’t actually prove since we’re talking about a hypothetical. But in the case of the Lerner e-mails we do have an excellent one for one, apples to apples comparison in the Palin e-mails.
I did a Google news search restricted to the period since the story broke, and when you filter out the blog hits, the mainstream media mentions of this story are a paltry handful compared to the more “sexy” stories of the day. The media simply isn’t showing much interest in it. But as Matt provides by example, outlets like the Washington Post have crowdsourced out jobs like this before. All we need is access to the full body of work once the tapes are processed. If we get it, I’m willing to bet that we could find some able volunteers in the community to take on the task.