The ACORN story is the latest in a series of instances where major news stories have developed from video that was created outside of an established news organization.
In this case, the video was created by Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe, who, with a digital camera and thrift store costumes, created a news story that has led Congress to seize federal funding for ACORN, the social reform group with offices around the county. So who are these independent reporters?
Giles, the 20-year-old who posed as a prostitute in the undercover tapes, studies journalism at ‘>Florida International University and writes for BigGovernment.com. She first noticed an ACORN office while jogging in D.C., in “the wrong part of town.” She says she “saw some homeless people and street-ladies, and put two and two together.”
Giles contacted her friend, James O’Keefe, to see if he was interested in exposing ACORN with an undercover ruse. The 25-year-old Rutgers graduate and current MBA student at Fordham also writes for BigGovernment.com. O’Keefe is no stranger to low-budget exposes. In 2006, undercover video that he shot at a Planned Parenthood clinic made the rounds at Fox News. In the video, O’Keefe visits a clinic as the boyfriend of an underage girl seeking an abortion.
O’Keefe started making activist videos while in college. Watching the videos, one can see O’Keefe developing tactics that he would employ in producing the ACORN tapes. Using a hidden camera, O’Keefe films situations in which he goads people into confronting hot-button issues. In one video, O’Keefe sets up an affirmative action bake sale in which the prices are based on race.
In a recent interview with The New York Post, O’Keefe said that he believes his method of production is “the future of activism and investigative reporting.”