Does this seem to you to be a new journalistic low?

I haven’t ever heard of anything like this, except in my sometime-interest in astronomy, when people were recruited to monitor big listening arrays or perhaps help map the genome.

The Washington Post has asked for 100 volunteer readers to go through some 24K emails from Gov. Sarah Palin’s tenure as Governor of Alaska.

Can we imagine they are looking for the good things she did as Governor with the purpose of praising her?  Surely there will be some.  If they find those things will they report them?  Do we expect stories about how, as Governor, she – say – helped a vet get a new wheelchair?

My initial reaction is one of contempt.  And I am pretty sure I would have the same reaction were this about a politician whose career I find loathsome, such as an aggressively pro-abortion “catholic”.

Enlist volunteers for this?

Does this seem to you to be a weird journalistic low?  Am I wrong?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. chcrix says:

    Actually no it doesn’t seem particularly low. It seems more pathetic. They are as much as saying they don’t have the staff to do the sifting.

    Now, when the Climategate emails from the CRU of the University of East Anglia (leaked or pilfered take your choice) appeared on the web many interested individuals sifted them for the gold and found it.

    Why do the work and let the WaPo take the credit?

  2. kittenchan says:

    And of course *none* of them would possibly be blackhats out to *create* havoc and ruin her and the people around her with falsified emails or anything of the kind…

  3. Rob Cartusciello says:

    One wag has noted that they didn’t use such efforts to investigate the contents of President Obama’s Health Care Bill.

  4. Charles E Flynn says:

    Could this request be considered outsourcing the sin of detraction? (Not to mention the misuse of a microprocessor.)

  5. frjim4321 says:

    I have never heard of anything like this.

    That being said, the more information that is disseminated about Mrs. Palin the better. And I would say the same of any candidate.

    With regard to Mrs. Palin there seems to be some kind of irrational cult of uncritical adulation that could get our country into very serious trouble if by chance she were elected to an important office. Thus, if the 100 volunteers would help to expose more data related to the lack of qualifications for office of Mrs. Palin they would be providing an invaluable service.

    That being said, this particular journalistic technique is unfamiliar to me. I don’t think I would recommend it as an ordinary practice.

    Fr. Jim

  6. Fr. Basil says:

    I do think that what the WaPo is doing is despicable, but it would be so regardless of whose e-mails they were reading.

    However, regarding Mrs. Palin herself, she is the Republican equivalent of Jesse Jackson.

    The Rev. Mr. Jackson crisscrossed the country telling his fans how powerful and popular Jesse Jackson was, and how the world had better realize it.

    What is Mrs. Palin doing that is any different?

  7. KAS says:

    I agree with the judgement that it is pathetic.

    The very fact that so much effort is being employed to try and ruin Sarah Palin and prevent her from running for office makes me wonder if the truth isn’t more along the lines that they are terrified of her because contrary to their constant chanting, she is intelligent and reasoning as well as far more competent to be president than the beloved of the press who is currently in office.

    Outsourcing their dirty digging really is a sorry sad thing to see–pitiful.

  8. templariidvm says:

    IN the comment section, the writer is getting eaten alive. There are a few defenders of his request, but for the most part, people are rather unhappy with him and his “paper”.

  9. ray from mn says:

    You can bet that the Post didn’t do that for Woodward & Bernstein’s Watergate investigation.

    These liberal newspapers are reverting to the journalistic techniques of the yellow journalists Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst who made up the news when there wasn’t any.

    “Newspaper reporters and readers of the 1890s were much less concerned with distinguishing among fact-based reporting, opinion and literature.” Wikipedia

  10. Jacob says:

    @Fr. Jim: Our country is already in very serious trouble exactly because of the “irrational cult of uncritical adulation” that surrounded our current president. Let us pray that our media have the good sense to spend more time on reporting on the current administration’s administering and less time on hounding a woman who isn’t even a declared candidate for the presidency.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    I have seen examples of Paul Revere’s breathtaking works in silver, but learned only a few weeks ago that he also made dentures:

    Palin and the Truth about Paul Revere

  12. EXCHIEF says:

    Jacob nailed it. Palin is not my preferred GOP candidate and my concern at the moment is the GOP field is too large. I would prefer that the GOP focus on a pro life, pro traditional marriage, anti illegal immigration, pro strong national defense candidate and do it now. The evil one, the darling of the leftist media, B Hussein Obama must be defeated. Palin’s role should be that of a conservative cheerleader and rally leader not that of candidate.

  13. avecrux says:

    What Jacob said – and EXCHIEF seconded.

  14. contrarian says:

    Weird. Agreed. They are simply looking for dirt, and will ignore anything good.

  15. benedetta says:

    You could not pay me enough to go through some politicians’ emails (tweets, etc.).

  16. frjim4321 says:

    With regard to Jacob and Exchief I would agree that the most important goal is not keeping unqualified individuals such as Palin and Gingrich out of office, but rather finding qualified individuals who will be able to take over for Mr. Obama after his second term.

  17. EXCHIEF says:

    Fr Jim
    This country cannot afford, in any sense, a second Obama term. I seriously believe that whatever might be left of this once great country after 8 years of Hussein might not be worth saving. I hope you are not wishing for a second Obama term. Perhaps you just think it is inevitable. If it is that simply underscores the depths to which the American voter has fallen. The man is a liar, a socialist, pro abortion, and anti Catholic.

  18. Joan A. says:

    “Am I wrong?”

    No, Father Zuhlsdorf, as ALWAYS, you are right!

  19. The Cobbler says:

    Tsk, tsk! Little Brother is sooooo 20th century. Volunteers to sift through emails? Google does that with algorithms now, people! I guess if you’re too busy imagining that one side’s more Big Brother than the other, you don’t think too hard about keeping up with technology in a little double-reactionary crusade against them.

  20. The Cobbler says:

    For the record, IMHO, Palin’s main appeal was precisely that she’s not “presidential material”, i.e. a standard politician, and that she brings out the worst (even if sometimes by comparison, e.g. who’s less qualified?) in the Democrats so easily (witness the notion that she’s worth massive campaigns poking around her files to prove her guilty of I don’t even know what — I mean, are they trying to prove she’s not presidential material, or that she _is_, considering the notoriety of Washington corruption?)… I’m not, however, a fan, precisely because she has tried to be a politician in her own way and I don’t believe in having things both ways. If she’d stuck to the hockey mom schtick, now, there’d be something to say about that, even if you could also criticize it; as it is, I think the main thing she has going for her as a leader currently is that her mere existence gets the Democrats into these obviously lunatic fits (apparently _they_ take her far more seriously than _I_ do).

  21. frjim4321 says:

    ec, I have no idea who i would prefer in the next go-round since we don’t know who the opposition will be . . . if the republics put forth a viable candidate of course I would consider him/her.

  22. RichardT says:

    You Yankees are behind the times.

    Climategate was done like this, with lots of volunteers and bloggers (many of them with relevant knowledge) shifting through the huge file of e-mails to find the important bits.

    The Parliamentary expenses scandal was done the same way, and that led to politicians being jailed (and ridiculed).

    In both cases there was far too much information for a team of journalists to sort through, so the whole lot was put on the web for people to trawl through to find – and expose – the interesting bits. And in both cases it revealed massive corruption.

  23. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    With regard to Mrs. Palin there seems to be some kind of irrational cult of uncritical adulation . . .

    How does that differ from the Obama followers of 2008?

  24. Mundabor says:

    I hope they find many volunteers.
    It’ll do them good.


  25. robtbrown says:

    I don’t think Palin is running for President. I do think, however, that the liberals are petrified of her and that she provides content for all the cable TV news shows who are looking to fill their time slots.

  26. robtbrown says:

    rjim4321 says:

    With regard to Jacob and Exchief I would agree that the most important goal is not keeping unqualified individuals such as Palin and Gingrich out of office . . .

    Why do you consider Gingrich unqualified?

  27. It’s not just the WaPo. The New York Times and Huffington Post have also solicited help for this project. There may be others, too, that I’m not aware of.

    Whether there is an agenda here is almost beside the point. This is journalistic outsourcing that is just cheap and lazy.

    Dcn. G.

  28. Random Friar says:

    The problem for the WaPo is that these are not being released in electronic form. They are being printed out (no kidding!), and are sitting in a government office in Juneau to be picked up by whatever agency is interested in them. No nice search function, unless you mean moistening your thumbs and flipping pages madly.

    Someone could probably speed scan them into a computer, but that also might take a long time, unless you have a really good copier with a built-in high-speed scanning function.

  29. There is an update on the article that Father linked:

    Quote (with my emphasis):

    UPDATE: We have had a strong response to our crowdsourcing call-out on the Palin e-mails. We’ve reconsidered our approach and now would like to invite comments and annotations from any interested readers.

    Here’s how to participate: Over 24,000 e-mail messages to and from Sarah Palin during her tenure as Alaska’s governor will be released Friday . We’ll be posting them here, and are inviting you to comment on the most interesting or most noteworthy sections. Please include page numbers and, where possible, a direct excerpt. We’ll share your comments with our reporters and may use facts or related material you suggest to annotate the documents displayed on The Post site. We may contact you for further details, by way of your registered e-mail with the Post, unless you specify otherwise in the comments.

  30. abasham says:

    What if they just called the volunteers “interns”?

  31. MichaelJ says:

    There are many who believe that someone like Palin is unqualified for the Presidency. I do not know how true this belief is, but if it is , I say “good”.

    For my entire life, this Nation has been governed by “qualified” individuals, and has been in continual decline. Maybe its time we put Joe the dogcatcher or Sarah the hockey mom in office. There’s no way they could do worse.

    And frjim4321, I have no idea about your qualifications or lack thereof, but I’d vote for you.

  32. Centristian says:

    A journalistic low in response to a Republican low, I suppose.

    Is it low of the media to do this to Sarah Palin? No lower than it was of the GOP to give this ridiculous person a national stage and to present her as an emblem of their platform.

    You get what you give.

  33. benedetta says:

    Of course all politicians already know, as do all journalists, that emails, tweets, whatever the record are considered public information by law. Maybe all candidates should be subjected to this same treatment?

    Any news on Obama’s promise to dialogue with prolife?

  34. MichaelJ says:

    Whether this is a journalistic low or not would depend on whether the Post is exploring, hunting, or fishing.
    If they are satisfying their readers genuine curiosity about a public figure (exploring) then it is Ok, I suppose.
    If they have a credible and reasonable suspicion that she is corrupt and are looking for evidence (hunting) then its also OK.
    If they are simply fishing for whattever dirt they can dig up, then it is low.

    Call me cynical, but I think the post is fishing.

  35. AnAmericanMother says:

    It’s actually not unheard of — there was a similar effort to sift through all the Emails on ClimateGate.

    This, however, is merely a fishing expedition, and while CNN and the Posties thought they would find a mountain, they haven’t even found a molehill, and have resorted to complaining about Palin ordering a tanning bed (which she paid for) and complaining about the media (!!)

    Centristian, if you have first-hand knowledge that Palin is “ridiculous,” please share it. That is of course the talking point that has been repeated throughout the DNC and the media, but it seems that she did a good job as governor.

    “Quitter” is another meme, but she was hounded out of office by malicious and baseless ethics complaints filed by local Democrats (with the financial assistance of the DNC). Because of a quirk of Alaska law, she had to pay to defend the complaints out of her own pocket and take time off work to do it, so it was taking her away from her job and bankrupting her. None of the ethics complaints was found to have any merit whatsoever. And “quitter” is never applied to certain parties who left their state senate job to run for higher office . . . .

    I’m personally inclined towards Herman Cain, who is a local businessman here with an excellent reputation, but the enthusiasm, persistence, and coordination with which the media and Democrats (and liberal Republicans) attack Palin tells me that they fear her . . . if she was really just a ridiculous fool, they would not (still!) be attacking her with such over-the-top methods. The similar (in that they were hysterical and completely untrue) liberal attacks on Ven. Pius XII, by the way, were the point at which a middle-aged Episcopalian said, “Hey, if they hate him so much, there must be a reason . . . . ” which was one more 2×4 upside the head driving me into the fold.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    And, just in case you don’t believe that the media is capable of making absolutely scandalous stuff up out of thin air:

  37. AnAmericanMother says:

    Just saw your question, and since Gingrich used to be my U.S. Representative I’ll just jump in and answer.
    He is both morally and temperamentally unqualified, and always has been.
    Morally, because (inter alia) he supported a radical pro-abortion and pro-homosexual candidate (Dede Scozzafava) a very short time after converting to Catholicism.
    Temperamentally, because he has never had the courage of his convictions. He can be successfully threatened, persuaded, or flattered into abandoning his stated positions. He did that repeatedly when he represented the Sixth District, and he’s kept right on. Trashing Paul Ryan and sitting on a sofa with Nancy Pelosi to join her in a global warming boondoggle is just more of the same.
    He’d be o.k. in a Cabinet post or as an adviser, but he is not fit to lead because he can’t.

  38. JuliB says:

    Mrs. Palin has gone through the most vetting any non-candidate in history has ever gone through! (Or even any candidate, for that matter.)

    As far as linking her supporters to having a cult-like adoration, I find that to be incredibly uncharitable and borderline un-Christian. I say this only with extreme regret, since I find those posters to be otherwise very insightful men. I’m a Sarah supporter and have not seen any such behavior/belief to be true in even a significant minority of those who support her.

    Honestly, as I believe her to be a pro-life woman with integrity and guts (taking on a corrupt Republican good ole boys network in Alaska), she was the ONLY reason I punched the ballot for McCain. I wish we could discuss politics and candidates without deriding the supporters and their intentions of candidates that we may not personally like or agree with.

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