Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Muckraker Sees a Need to Challenge the Media

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Muckraker Sees a Need to Challenge the Media

Article excerpt

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS -- It was billed as an opportunity for citizen journalists to learn how to make government more transparent.

But the featured speaker, James O'Keefe, who has garnered national attention for his undercover video stings targeting the community activist group ACORN and other government-funded organizations, told the 50 or so people who gathered at the Hilton hotel that their first battle must be with mainstream media outlets, alleging they are often in cahoots with the sources they cover.

"The media has sources in government -- sources that they don't want to burn," O'Keefe said. "They're not willing to jeopardize that relationship. ... As citizen journalists, we don't have that concern."

His remarks came during a Saturday seminar for citizen journalists sponsored by the conservative Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. Some of those who attended identified themselves as Tea Party members and libertarians.

O'Keefe, a Westwood resident, is known for secretly taping purported wrongdoings at government-funded agencies. In 2009, he released a video of employees at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), in which representatives supposedly advised O'Keefe and a woman on sex trafficking and tax evasion.

In the aftermath, ACORN -- which worked on behalf of low-income families -- lost government funding, though multiple investigations eventually cleared it of criminal wrongdoing and independent analyses of raw footage of the video by various media sources determined the video was heavily edited. Last month, media reports stated that O'Keefe agreed to a $100,000 settlement with a former ACORN employee. O'Keefe acknowledged that a settlement had been reached on his website, Project Veritas.

O'Keefe, who describes himself as a citizen journalist, said Saturday that the most damning statements he recorded have not been disputed and maintains he holds high ethical standards. …

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