Has North American journalism gone undercover? If traditional media were doing their job, few people would have heard of James O’Keefe.
O’Keefe’s career as a provocateur started as a prank. On St. Patrick’s Day, 2005, he persuaded an unusually dense Rutgers administrator that persons of Irish descent might be offended by Lucky Charms cereal. She took the bait and removed the “offensive” boxes of cereal from the dining hall. … He was later propelled to fame by his exposure of community organizing group ACORN for offering to run underage (im)migrant prostitutes.
O’Keefe’s trademark method is, of course, the video sting. His rationale is fairly simple: Traditional media, hampered by a now-highly corporate but out-of-date business model, “could not afford to sponsor” such stings (p. 17). Huge corporations are, in many ways, more beholden to government than small ones. What strikes a traditional news writer like me about the ACORN story is that it was just so ripe for the picking. Yet “[No] sunlight had ever penetrated the ACORN operation. (p. 56)” Understanding O’Keefe’s complex role means, among other things, confronting the irrevocable changes that underlie it.