• Christine Sculati

    Rick: Thanks so much for writing this thought-provoking article. I completely agree that nonprofits and high quality journalism are critical for elevating the quality of the public dialogue.

  • Mike S.

    I agree that these sting operations are terrible journalism…but what are we going to do about it? This practice is not going to go away just because we think it’s unfair. It’s an undesirable byproduct of the democratization of media. I think it will probably pass as people learn to ignore it – just as they learned to ignore government propaganda that once held such sway.
    In the meantime, though, we have to stop caving to this crap. The fact that NPR lost execs over this – during a public funding battle – is infuriating to me. It only encourages this nonsense. Have some courage and stand by your people. And when someone attacks you, RESPOND. Don’t ‘launch an investigation’. Don’t be cool and detached and reasonable and apologetic. These people are openly declaring war on public media and the response is to run away saying “that’s not fair”.

  • Jsn Schumacher

    Although stings can be pretty shady, I do think they can serve a valuable service in exposing the reality of an organization’s operation vs their public face. And they can serve as a reminder for nonprofits to reinforce their mission and values to all their employees.

  • Michael Wyland

    It’s not clear to me whether the anger is directed at stings of nonprofit organizations, stings of perceived “liberal” organizations, or stings in general. The criticism of the sting of Gov. Scott Walker is, at best, muted in comparison to that of the other stings Mr. Cohen cites.

    What Mr. Cohen says about the questionable value of stings could also be said, with varying degrees of correlation, of stings against corporations and individuals. Mr. Cohen’s case would be helped if he could cite a couple such cases and give them equally condemnatory treatment.

    The democratization of the media as well as shrinking media budgets in most sectors (conglomerates like Fox, Vivendi, and CNN are, increasingly, outliers in their resources) means there are less trained and experienced journalists doing investigative reporting, especially at the local level. This is a vacuum into which bloggers, activists, gadflies, and just plain folks can enter, armed with readily available, inexpensive audio and video equipment. Results can then be shared at little or no charge with anyone in the world who accesses the Internet.

    We can rage against the dying of the light, yearn for the halcyon days of objective journalism (while forgetting all the unobjective journalism that also flourished alongside it), and hope against hope for better days.

    I would argue that true journalists seeking objectivity, ethics, standards, and earned credibility have a real opportunity to lead by example, using the same venues used by everyone else. The value proposition that will support such enterprises is the quality of the product.

    Both liberals and conservatives mistakenly believe there is too much evil in the world, centered in their political rivals. Like a malpractice attorney once told me, there is such a thing as malpractice, but it happens fgar less often than most people believe. Similarly, most people are motivated by their perceptions of good and desirable ends, both for themselves and for others. It requires some empathetic listening – listening with the intent to be influenced – to get past the vitriol and bias to find the real story. True journalists have an immense opportunity to work in this area, because it has been left fallow by the media identified as both left-wing and right-wing.

    Do we condemn, or do we investigate with the intent to learn and explain from a viewpoint other than our own?

  • carl1974

    Let’s not shoot the messenger. Ever watch the show “Bait Car”?…cops leave a car with hidden cameras in a bad neighborhood and eventually someone’s character reveals itself. We may not like what we saw on the video, but like the cops all they did was set the environment, get the cameras rolling and people’s character revealed itself.

    If I were a Board member at NPR, ACORN or Planned Parenthood I wouldn’t be wasting my energy on complaining about the pranksters. Instead I’d be having LONG discussions with the CEO and other Board members about staff recruitment, supervision and organizational culture.

  • Karol

    I wouldn’t be complaining I’d be suing.

  • BubbaLou

    I listen to NPR, I’m African-American, and I’m working poor. NPR works for me too! Not everybody who listens to npr is white, rich, and has a master’s degree. Keep it real!