I talked with Arianna Huffington tonight and asked how she got her scoop revealing who made the Hillary 1984 attack commercial. It was a true case of networked, bottoms-up journalism.
While the rest of media was tripping over themselves to do the same story of the Hillary ad, weeks after it came out, and idly wondering who made it, Arianna dispatched her troops to do real reporting. She said about 30 people were involved at first, making phone calls and digging into what they knew, debunking some leads and following others. Finally, it came down to contacts and a little technology. Arianna said that YouTube revealed nothing about the video’s maker or his account. But the guy apparently left some turkey tracks with his email. And a Huffpo person knew someone who knew someone — and so on — who confirmed the identity of the mysterious video man, Phil De Vellis.
Then Arianna called him. She said he was genuinely surprised and thought he would never be unmasked. She offered him the chance to write a post about what he did and why. After some delay — when he apparently dealt with his employers and become a former employee — he came back and delivered that post.
Arianna is admiring of him. She said he put out a message without any desire for fame. She says he told no lies in the ad.
I look at it differently. I think he hid, the chicken, behind online anonymity. It’s also quite possible that he did his man Obama no favors, as some will think the candidate made this and will think less of him for starting the attacks so early.
But Arianna and I agree that the campaigns, which are all about control, are going to be less and less in control as more people use YouTube and the internet to get their own messages out.
(Crossposted at PrezVid.)