Conor Friedersdorf has a sharply observed take on rigorous journalism as a competitive advantage in this election cycle:
Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses. What conservative Washington Post readers got, when they traded in Dave Weigel for Rubin, was a lot more hackery and a lot less informed about the presidential election.
Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. WorldNetDaily brought you birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka the Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemies in a “Grand Jihad” against America. Seriously?
Obviously, as someone who works for an organization with a clearly-stated perspective on what kinds of policies make for a stronger country, I have a dog and a paycheck behind the fight that says it’s possible to have both a worldview and a rigorous approach to facts. But even given that, it’s always amazing to me that people choose to believe it’s better, not just for their pageviews, but for their causes, to be dishonest or to waste time on conspiracy theories or straight-up dishonesty. If you lie, you can get caught, and sometimes, sued. If you chase ghosts, you risk being thought ridiculous both by people whose opinions you disdain and those whose approval you might like to court. If you devote bandwidth to nothing stories, you waste time that could be more profitably spent researching and reporting real scandals, and developing sources of actual value. If you mislead your readers to inflame their passions, you divert them from issues that they could profitably mobilize around. If you skew possible outcomes, you risk exposing your audience to shattering disappointments and confusion. No matter how well you firewall yourself, you will eventually be exposed on some level. Orly Taitz and company can believe all they want that the president is not an American citizen. But they cannot deny that he is occupying the White House and performing the office of president.
If your only goals are to juice traffic, I understand this kind of approach on a rational level, even though it’s vile. But if your goals are ideological, doing these things makes no damn sense.