Prior to this week, the idea that the community organizers at ACORN would willingly help a pimp and his hooker girlfriend establish a brothel staffed by underage El Salvadorans would have beggared belief. Could Bob Woodward himself have persuaded editors to back an undercover investigation premised on that possibility?
Yet staffers at three separate offices run by the national non-profit abetted what they believed to be that very scheme. Credit is due to 25-year-old independent filmmaker James O'Keefe and his accomplice Hannah Giles for dreaming up the over-the-top scenario, costuming themselves in attire so exaggerated as to suggest a "Pimp & Ho"-themed fraternity party, and capturing the whole thing on hidden video. The pair even baited their marks into offering advice on how a brothel might launder its profits into a future congressional campaign! Were these ACORN folks the same people who advised Rod Blagojevich?
The story, published on Andrew Breitbart's newly launched Web site Big Government, marks a new era in partisan journalism. As recently as 2004, the right counted as its greatest new media triumph a cooperative effort to debunk a CBS story on President Bush's National Guard service. How quickly the bar has been raised. The ACORN expose offered original reporting, broke on a movement blog, released updates in a way calculated to maximize the damage to its target, and produced immediate results: already the United Stated Census Bureau has informed the organization that its services are no longer wanted, and the United States Senate voted Monday to prevent it from receiving federal housing funds.
But it would be folly for news organizations to ignore this story out of pettiness or snobbery. Though everyone involved in producing the ACORN expose had ideological ends, they used journalistic means to achieve them—in fact, hyperpartisan impulses that produce muckraking scoops are the rare variety that should be celebrated. Who cares whether a reporter or an activist happened to do the reporting? Everyone benefits when indefensible deeds are accurately exposed and the perpetrators made accountable. (CONTINUES HERE)