We first posted an in-depth look at the NPR sting video on Thursday, when our Scott Baker and Pam Key asked whether the raw video revealed questionable editing tactics. Then Thursday evening, Key posted a six-minute montage showing enlightening sections cut from the now-infamous, edited video.
Our videos — sometimes referenced together, sometimes not — have been getting some viral attention. A good number of news and journalism sites have been referencing our analysis as they debate the ethics of the NPR video and the role and parameters of undercover journalism.
Business Insider writer Glynnis MacNicol noticed our “investigation is drawing applause from some unlikely quarters.”
Take the New York Times, for example. On Friday evening, Times writer Peter Catapano posted a lengthy piece aggregating the best commentary regarding the undercover video, and featuring diverging views regarding its ethics. It seems the article was incomplete without mentioning our piece:
As several readers have pointed out, Pam Key, a producer at Glenn Beck’s Web site, The Blaze, examines unedited video to determine whether the version that O’Keefe released was edited deceptively.
About an hour later, NYT editor Patrick LaForge tweeted the following:
Palafo seems to hint at one of the most common reactions: bewilderment over why, out of all the sites out there, we were one of the only ones to take the time to comb through the video and ask tough questions.
“It’s either depressing or sort of wonderful that Glenn Beck’s The Blaze was the one to catch some really serious, dishonest lily-gilding in the NPR sting,” Politico’s Ben Smith writes on his blog from Friday, adding a mild mea culpa: “I regret having, even in what I thought was a cautious way, picked up the story.”
Mediaite’s Jon Bershad expressed his astonishment as “interesting” [emphasis added]:
While the content of the article is certainly interesting enough, the fact that The Blaze wrote it up is even more interesting. Who would have guessed when Glenn Beck announced that he was starting a news site, that that site would be the only ones to spend this much time in the defense of an NPR executive? Sure, any site that seems to have a set ideology may have a couple posts with a differing opinion and, yes, James O’Keefe isn’t exactly an untouchable figure in Conservative politics, but the clear amount of effort that The Blaze obviously expended on this project sets it apart. […]
TIME Magazine’s James Poniewozik gave The Blaze “kudos” for taking the time to focus on the raw video while Mother Jones Editor — yes, Mother Jones — Clara Jeffery sent her compliments out via the Twittersphere:
Columbia Journalism Review writer Joel Meares looked at the merits of our pieces: “It gets to the point about taking caution with these kinds of videos…,” he wrote after mentioning some of the edits we questioned, adding, “A surprising analysis from a surprising source. Well done, Blaze:”
Then there’s NPR.
Meares spent time with NPR’s ombudsman — its in-house critic — Alicia Shepard on Friday. Shepard has been justifiably quite critical of the undercover video central figure, now-former NPR fundraising executive Ron Schiller. She found our article to be “a good piece of reporting [she] had happened upon this week” (Meares’s words). On Friday night, Shepard let her Twitter followers know it:
She also appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday to talk about the issues we raised:
Others at NPR have noticed, too. For example, news blogger Mark Memmott devoted an entire post on NPR’s website to our O’Keefe analysis. He, wisely, did not see our analysis as a basis for trying to exonerate Schiller.
“As NPR’s David Folkenflik says on Weekend Edition Sunday, conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze has done some judging and concluded that O’Keefe did make some misleading edits,” he says in a Sunday article.
But the most important sentence in Memmott’s piece may be this: “O’Keefe’s edits do not entirely wipe away the nature of some things Schiller said.”
(An NPR “All Things Considered” interview to air Monday will feature Baker discussing this issue.)
And that may be the best way to summarize our analysis and the reaction to it. The editing and emphasis in the expose deserve scrutiny. But there were also plenty of seemingly indefensible things said in the video. The Poynter Institute’s Steve Myers says, “The Blaze story identifies several important differences that color viewers’ perception of what happened.” But Myers — as with our post — does not see flaws in the O’Keefe video as reason to wipe the slate clean for the NPR executives involved.