David Carr was the latest Timesman to take a bite out of the juicy apple of the Shirley Sherrod tape controversy in his Monday media column, "Journalists, Provocateurs, Maybe Both."
While admitting mainstream journalism "is not always neutral," he faulted new media conservatives for the current state of affairs, where "many are less interested in covering the game than tilting the field." This "tilting" is apparently an exclusively right-wing phenomenon that applies solely to conservative "provocateurs," not media organs like the New York Times (Times Watch readers know better).
Journalism, even in its most traditional forms, is not always neutral. Did reporters and editors at The Washington Post spend two hard years coming up with its "Top Secret America" series, a comprehensive pat-down of America's expanding security network, merely as a by-the-way to taxpayers?
Not likely. In its selection of targets and subsequent findings, the newspaper was clearly hoping to force a reconsideration of the priorities that have produced a sprawling infrastructure that seems accountable only to itself.
Andrew Breitbart, a conservative blogger, lighted the race fuse by promoting a heavily edited tape of a relatively ancient speech by Shirley Sherrod, an Agriculture Department official. And last week, Tucker Carlson, creator of The Daily Caller, published another set of private postings from Journolist, a now shuttered e-mail list, that seemed to reflect a kind of conspiracy of left-leaning thinkers and journalists.
Both men, professed conservatives, would seem to be as much provocateurs as journalists. Mr. Breitbart famously brought Acorn to its knees by releasing heavily edited video clips that suggested the poverty organization had provided advice to a conservative activist posing as a pimp. Mr. Carlson has, among other things, bought the domain name KeithOlbermann.com, one more bit of mischief intended to bring attention and hits to The Daily Caller.
There's sure been a lot of huffing about The Daily Caller website trying to boost its hits. Is that not the mission of every single page on the Web? At least Carr made a stab at balance here:
There have been times when it seemed that Rush Limbaugh was acting as de facto head of the Republican Party, as the Democrats picked up talking points from Rachel Maddow. And Sarah Palin, through Facebook and Twitter accounts, has become an important source of political wisdom for many Americans.
Carr could have also mentioned that an extended clip from the June 25 edition of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show was featured in a clip from President Obama shown to Netroots Nation, the left-wing blogger convention in Las Vegas this weekend.
Even the most tradition-bound journalists would concede that while watching the world spin, they like to nudge it every once in a while. Why, after all, would someone spend their professional life enmeshed in the civic conversation unless they had a stake in it somewhere? But what is emerging is more of a permanent crusade, where information is not only power, but a means to a specific end.
As content providers increasingly hack their own route to an audience, it's becoming clear that many are less interested in covering the game than tilting the field.
As if the liberal media, and his colleagues at the Times, haven't been tilting the field in favor of Democrats for years.