Breitbart published what it billed as a major scoop on Tuesday:
Wow, a true shocker. Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, let the New York Times have it in his lede:
Emails from a reporter for the New York Times to government employees obtained exclusively by Breitbart News demonstrate that the newspaper’s employees are not just on the receiving end of leaks, but are actually soliciting government employees to become leakers.
You read that bombshell correctly: Journalists covering the government for a major newspaper are actually approaching government employees for information about how it’s going.
I’d wax on how this is the basic definition of political reporting, but that alone would be too much for this story.
Citing emails obtained by Breitbart, Boyle lays out how Times reporter Coral Davenport approached a union representative for Environmental Protection Agency employees for help with a story, and then how he passed along her query to more than 30 EPA staffers. Lo and behold how the dastardly MSM sausage is made, as seen in Davenport’s note:
As I mentioned, I’m working on a story looking specifically at concrete examples of unusual secrecy at EPA. I’ve heard a lot of second-hand rumors, but in order to report these incidents, I’d need to have first-hand or eyewitness accounts. I’m looking for examples of things like, information being communicated only verbally when it would historically have been put in writing, people being told not to bring phones, laptops or even take notes in meetings where they would in the past typically have done so, eyewitness accounts of things like the administrator or top political appointees refusing to use official email, phones or computers, or any other specific, first-hand examples of practices that appear to demonstrate unprecedented secrecy or transparency.
Not only was Davenport attempting to confirm second-hand rumors with people who may have actually witnessed them—the horror!—but she even offered to protect their identities:
While I’d like to speak to staff about these examples, I DON’T need to quote them by name or with any sort of identifying details that could in any way reveal the source of the information. We’re VERY sensitive to the need to protect career folks who speak to us, and we DO NOT want to endanger anyone’s employment. But, in order to ensure that our reporting is based on facts rather than rumors, we do need to feel sure that the examples we give are based on first-hand or eyewitness experiences rather than second and third-hand rumors.
Boyle, who doesn’t provide any details on how he got these...leaked emails, describes Davenport’s “plea for leaks” as a “revelation.” He incorrectly compares such communications between reporters and anonymous sources to the national security “leaks” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged last week to stop. He doesn’t grapple with why people inside government agencies might feel the need to make internal information public at this particular moment. And he goes on to name the more than 30 EPA staffers to whom Davenport’s email was forwarded—even though they may have not actually responded to her.
Breitbart, of course, gave off the appearance of due diligence by reaching out to the Times for comment. Spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades-Ha’s quoted response was a case study in understatement: “The email demonstrates the process of reporting and gathering facts.”
Still, such mundane acts of journalism equate to an exposé in the current media hellscape we inhabit, and Boyle’s story is currently atop Breitbart’s “Most Popular” list.
The site’s Washington editor said at the Heritage Foundation last month that Breitbart’s goal “is the full destruction and elimination of the entire mainstream media....We envision a day when the New York Times closes its doors.” With more supposed scoops like Tuesday’s, Breitbart readers may just think it’s succeeding.