No wonder last week's frenzy over Sarah Palin's old emails went as fast as it came. Not only did it turn out to be the nonstory of the year. It gave objective journalism one of its biggest black eyes yet.
We don't remember anything quite like it. The state of Alaska was releasing more than 24,000 — or 300 pounds' worth — of emails that Palin wrote during her years as governor (2006 to 2009). The documents were a matter of public record, we were told, because Palin often used personal emails to cover state business. Whatever the case, the New York Times was beside itself.
Along with other news organizations, the Times dispatched reporters to Juneau, the state capital, to begin scanning the files as soon as they were available. But it went a step further, asking readers to help with its "investigation."
"In terms of juicy reading, you can't get any better than this," said a New York Times spokesperson in an online call to action. "Since practically everything Palin does is considered news as it is, her personal emails as governor are a veritable goldmine ... .
"So if you've ever had a secret ambition to do some investigative journalism for the Times, see your name credited in the paper, or just gossip incessantly about Sarah Palin, this one is for you."