I’ve always been a fan of good journalism. Good journalism is more than shoving a microphone under someone’s chin and letting them spew. Good journalism takes time. It requires a heightened level of skepticism and suspicion. A good journalist must constantly ask herself if the story she is hearing is true and verifiable, and if the source of that story is credible. This week we learned that journalists at the Washington Post are doing just that. The journalists were not fooled by a woman working for a sleazy right wing sting operation, even when the woman provided information that seemed to reinforce one of the Post’s most recent scoops—that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had preyed on underage girls when he was a prosecutor in his thirties.
As I’ve said in this space before, Roy Moore isn’t going anywhere. No matter how many women come forward and no matter how credible and consistent their stories, Moore will stay in the race. He will probably win it. Too many voters in Alabama don’t much care whether Moore has a thing for young girls. They only care that he is a Bible-thumping and gun-toting extremist, and that he is not a Democrat. But I digress.
In an effort to assure Moore’s victory, the odious folks at Project Veritas (run by convicted criminal James O’Keefe) sent a woman to ensnare a Washington Post reporter with a fake story about a relationship with Moore when she was 15. She claimed Moore got her pregnant and took her to get an abortion. The aim of this deception was to discredit the women who’ve spoken out about their own early encounters with Moore.
If the Washington Post only wanted to smear Moore, it would have run with this woman’s story. It would have added her voice to the voices of the many other, far more credible women who’ve come forward. That the newspaper chose to investigate further and report nothing until they had the whole story, is a testament to its high standards and integrity. It speaks volumes about the low standards and lack of integrity of the people associated with Project Veritas, as well. The reporters and editors at the Washington Post did their jobs and did them well. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever be fooled, but they weren’t fooled this time. They aren’t fooled most of the time. That’s because they do the hard work of checking facts, of verifying claims, of assessing the overall trustworthiness of their sources. This work isn’t glamorous. It is the antithesis of today’s internet and cable news cycle, where reporters race to get interviews and headlines, often at the expense of analysis and truth.
We’ve come to think of journalism as a fast-paced business, where being first is more important than being right. But the best journalism is often slow. It is hundreds of phone calls and visits to the records division of the county clerk’s office. It is sifting through files and examining budget line items. It is late nights on a hard bench at a city council meeting and early mornings perusing the dockets at the courthouse. It is reading through pages of police reports, where most of the entries are minor offenses like public drunkenness and littering. And sometimes, it’s weeks of talking to a source only to discover that the story isn’t in what she is telling you, but in who she is and who she is working for and her underlying, nefarious motivations.
These reporters and many others are modern day heroes and they deserve respect. Fortunately, they won’t stop doing their jobs just because a lot of petulant, childish people keep shouting “fake news.” They are bigger than the small people who seek to undermine their work. Thank goodness.