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Posted at 2:45 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Vivian Schiller resigns from NPR. So prank journalism is okay now?

By Alexandra Petri

NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller turned in her resignation Wednesday, in view of a video by conservative prankster James O'Keefe in which an NPR senior official slammed the Tea Party and said, among other things, that NPR might fare better without public funding, hoping to attract a $5 million donation from a group that claimed to be an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The best part of the NPR/James O'Keefe situation is the giant leaps it made for prank journalism.

This is delightful to me. I make a lot of prank calls. Once I sold vowels on a street corner. I have been known to wander up and down the streets dressed as an omelet. Once, as a new year's resolution, I called the Extenze hotline every night for a month. Sometimes I show up at parties in tony neighborhoods pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier. One day I called Glenn Beck pretending to be Hitler, but he just said normal Glenn Beck things, and it wasn't newsworthy.

I had no idea this was journalism.

It's very freeing. "What?" I tell cops, as they arrest me for lurking outside Anderson Cooper's home in a sexy rabbit suit. "I was just committing journalism!"

On the flip side, all this is making me wary. If there's one thing I've learned from the Scott Walker "David Koch" conversation and the NPR/James O'Keefe/Muslim Brotherhood sting, it's that you should never be polite to someone you think could be a major donor. "How dare you allege that!" you should shout, when he suggests anything. "I will have you taken out and shot!"

This poses problems, too (sometimes it will turn out to be a real donor, and he will call the state troopers on you), but at least you will be confident that no one will be able to post your conversation online and mistake moments of polite agreement for back-room collusion.

It used to be that this sort of pranking was limited to Ashton Kutcher and the folks at Dateline. "It seems kind of weird that our cops are spending so much time online pretending to be 14-year-olds," people said, "but those are pedophiles, so go ahead!" Most journalism, on the other hand, used to imply that You Had an Editor Somewhere Who Had Agreed This Was a Good Idea. Now that's no longer the case. Want to go to Planned Parenthood and pretend to be a pimp? Knock yourself out, and then post it on YouTube!

The question with this, as with all journalism, is: does it convey meaningful information? In this case, the consensus has been that it did -- the NPR CEO has been pushed out, and Ron Schiller, the NPR executive who made the remarks, who was leaving NPR for the Aspen Institute, now isn't welcome there, either.

But are we agreed? Is this just okay now? Because I'm in a very inflammatory costume right now about to go visit the White House, so I need everyone to sign off on this.

Or maybe I don't.

By Alexandra Petri  | March 9, 2011; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Bad Advice, Petri, Reality? Television, That's awkward  | Tags:  James O'Keefe, NPR, journalism, pranks  
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Comments

Miss Petri,

Were you aware of what Ian Murphy, the guy who contacted Scott Walker and pretended to be a Koch brother wrote on his own blog?

It's a quaint piece called "EFFF the Troops".

Here's a taste:

"So, 4000 rubes are dead. Cry me the Tigris. Another 30,000 have been seriously wounded. Boo f***ing hoo. They got what they asked for—and cool robotic limbs, too."

That's who's doing your hilarious dirty work for the left. Don't believe me? Well, here's a link to Murphy's work - on his own blog.

http://buffalobeast.com/126/****.the.troops.Ian.Murphy.html

You'll have to replace the four asterisks in the link. I think you can figure it out.

Posted by: cartmaneric | March 9, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Petri- Doth the lady protesteth too much?

O'Keefe is doing what journalists did before they became part of state controlled media. It is called INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM. Sometimes techniques are employed as a ruse to GET TO THE TRUTH. Real journalists did this at one point (ever heard of 60 minutes?)before they started marching to the current administrations drum. LOL!

Posted by: parkhillpanthers | March 9, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

So what's the difference if 60 Minutes or Dateline goes undercover and if O'keefe's crew does it?

Posted by: tbenintende | March 9, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

>I have been known to wander up and down the streets dressed as an omelet.

Clearly someone was egging you on.

Posted by: CharlieinColorado | March 9, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

When the left does this it's "Speaking truth to power." When the right does it it's "prank journalism." Duly noted....

Posted by: getjiggly3 | March 9, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

What your extremely unfunny post does not see to get Petri Dish is that these pranksters make you "real" journOlists look like fools every time. Especially how your inevitable coverage of the incident (if you ever even do) always starts w/ "the heavily edited tapes", then when they are released they are even more damaging. The fact is there is a big market for real journalism which the left wing press ignores due to the fact that you are all basically stenographers to obama and dems. Still waiting on a story about Sebilus admitting the obamacare numbers are a sham and the double counted only...$500 billion. Still waiting JournOlisters. Go O'Keef. Keep it up bro!

Posted by: j751 | March 9, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Prank journalism doesn't work when the public figures in question are consistent in their beliefs and actions. The best route for a public personality to avoid prank journalism is simply to be both publicly and privately honest. It doesn't matter which side of the political aisle they are on; they may lose some support, but they will at least maintain their self-respect.

On the other hand, we are inundated with media savvy public figures who are quite adept at saying one thing, while believing (or doing) another. Prank journalists are an unfortunate necessity in such an environment.

http://halifaxcb.blogspot.com

Posted by: HalifaxCB | March 9, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Prank journalism ? It used to be called "investigative journalism".

NPR released or fired 2 executives including their CEO after this "prank".

No one is fired after being "pranked". They were fired for exposing NPR as liberal-leftist and extremely biased organization.

O'Keefe actually released both a 5 minute edited and the full unedited 2 hour version of his "prank".

CBS has refused to release the full unedited interview it conducted with Sarah Palin. Why ?

Who knew O'Keefe's standards are higher than CBS ?

Posted by: pvilso24 | March 10, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

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