Times Suddenly Concerned About Journalistic Credibility - At Fox News Anyway

Media reporter Brian Stelter made the front of Monday's Business page with another Fox News-bashing take on the controversy over Shirley Sherrod: "When Race is the Issue, Misleading Coverage Sets Off an Uproar."

In the last couple of days, Andrew Breitbart, a conservative Web site operator, has been called a liar, a provocateur, a propagandist - and even a race-baiter. But he says he knows who the true race-baiters are: some Democratic activists.

Andrew Breitbart highlighted the edited video clip of Shirley Sherrod on one of his Web sites. "It's warfare out there," he says.

It was one of Mr. Breitbart's Web sites, BigGovernment, that highlighted the heavily edited video clip of Shirley Sherrod, a black official at the Department of Agriculture, apparently saying that she had been biased against a white farmer she was supposed to help. Ms. Sherrod's full speech actually demonstrated the opposite, but do not expect Mr. Breitbart to be embarrassed.

Stelter evinces a convenient concern for journalist credibility for "when obscure or misleading stories are blown out of proportion and when what amounts to political opposition research is presented as news." Stelter must have missed the Times' hit pieces on John McCain alleging an affair and suggesting his birthplace made him unqualified to serve as president, or the paper's sabotage of two successful Bush-era terror-fighting programs it disapproved of.

But it is an open question whether conservative media outlets risk damage to their credibility when obscure or misleading stories are blown out of proportion and when what amounts to political opposition research is presented as news.

Stelter pivoted to take on the bigger enemy, the Fox News Channel.

The incident has also renewed accusations of racism directed at Fox News, a unit of the News Corporation, which could conceivably affect Fox and its advertisers. The National Association of Black Journalists has faulted Fox for years for inaccurately portraying blacks. And Mr. Beck called Mr. Obama a racist last August, prompting an advertiser boycott that continues.

In the last month, Fox doggedly pursued an accusation of voter intimidation by a fringe hate group called the New Black Panthers on the day of the last presidential election. One news anchor, Megyn Kelly, devoted dozens of segments to the incident. (Ms. Kelly was even upbraided on the air by a Fox News contributor, Kirsten Powers, who accused her of doing the "scary black man thing."

Not mentioned: Powers is a regularly appearing Democratic strategist/conservative foil on Fox News.

"Heavily edited tapes" seems to be the liberally approved phrase to place in front of mentions of the ACORN scandal these days. It's cropped up in several recent Times stories, including Stelter's.

Last fall, Fox's news programs gave heavy play to heavily edited tapes that appeared to show counselors at the liberal community organizing group Acorn giving advice to an ostensible pimp and his prostitute about evading taxes and setting up a brothel.

Stelter seems to be calling Breitbart's stories "scurrilous."

Scurrilous stories meant to taint the Obama administration regularly take root online before gaining traction on television and radio. Mr. Breitbart calls this the "undermedia."

Yet after all this "conservative"-baiting, Stelter somehow managed not to stick a liberal label on Arianna Huffington or her popular leftist website: "Back in 2005, Mr. Breitbart helped Arianna Huffington set up The Huffington Post. Mr. Breitbart's work for Ms. Huffington did not last long."

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