"You're fired!" The words did not come from "The Donald," but from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
"It was a learning moment," are not the words of education innovator Horace Mann, but from the press, including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, as it concerned the firing of USDA official Shirley Sherrod.
The Sherrod firing was discussed with great passion on the Sunday talking-head shows. It was great news drama, until over 91,000 military documents showed up on Wikileaks.
For those of you who have been playing Rip van Winkle, here is the short version of the story: On March 27, Sherrod gave a passionate presentation to the NAACP about race relations, discovering her own prejudices and her epiphany that she was wrong.
On July 19, conservative zealot Andrew Breitbart posted a portion of Sherrod's speech on his blog to show that the NAACP's allegations that the tea party is prejudiced were not true, pointing his finger back to the NAACP. This is the same Breitbart who posted the propagandist video "showing" ACORN offering assistance to a pimp and hooker who were, in fact, Breitbart's henchmen.
We now understand that Breitbart's newest video was nothing more than propaganda, an assault on the NAACP using Shirley Sherrod as the target. A portion of that speech was taken out of context. Way out of context. You can watch the entire Sherrod speech on YouTube. Ask yourself, "What is wrong with Breitbart's video?" Make your own conclusion.
The talking-head shows claimed that this was a teaching moment, focusing their discussions on race relations in the United States. They talked about how the USDA overreacted to this situation, firing Sherrod while she was driving, demanding she text her resignation immediately. However, the "learning moment" is not only about racism and government's (and corporate's) overreaction to the race issue. It is about the press and, by extension, Internet citizen journalists and propagandists.
What does this have to do with the fine citizens of Columbia? It has to do with how citizens obtain news and how news media's obsession for 24/7 coverage is destroying its own morals.
Good journalism is based on facts and research. Commentaries are one person's opinion concerning those facts. Both open up discussions on subjects that may be hiding in the fields.
Propaganda, on the other hand, is designed only to provoke extremist views. Mostly of anger. To burn those fields.
Knowing that the source of this video had already perpetrated propaganda, the Fourth Estate should have questioned the video immediately. They did not, including both our cross-town competitor and us.
The Missourian was guilty for not running the Sherrod story, connecting it in terms of race relations in Columbia and the failure of the press to conduct due diligence.
It used to be that if we read it in the paper, it must be true. Then if we heard it on the radio or if we saw it on television it must be true. Today, if we read it on the Internet or hear it on late night TV it must be true. Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, partisan politics maneuvered the press and partisan press maneuvered public opinion. Readers cannot separate the wheat from the chaff as they sift for news. Now with the coming of Internet propagandists, the weeds are enveloping the fields.
The press, including the Missourian, and citizen journalists, including myself, have an obligation to the public — to seek out the truth, expose the lie and show how national stories such as Sherrod versus Breitbart have a hyper-local connection. Columbia's citizen journalist Mike Martin alluded to this very thing in his July 29 issue of "The Columbia Heart Beat." Citizen radio hosts Tyree and Jesca Byndom make the national news local on their KOPN talk shows, "Kore Issues" and "Straight Talk."
This was a learning moment for citizen journalists, commentators and the press. The lesson: We need to do better. Much better.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.