The media’s collective freakout over Shirley Sherrod was just the latest rerun of its freakout over the OJ Simpson trial, “a grotesque Groundhog Day set of conditions that occur all too often,” writes Mark Halperin of Time. Both were brimming with the kind of disputed facts, compelling characters, and hot-button issues that the new media—cable TV, talk radio, and the Internet—thrive on. Both allowed endless speculation and angles, and could cheaply fill virtually any news hole.
The old media follows suit—no one wants to be a minor player in a major story, so “maximum resources are thrown at even the tawdriest detail.” Soon the coverage becomes “insanely overblown" (You can see Newser's glut of stories here.) Sherrod's saga might be the worst we’ve ever seen, because it was literally manufactured, made up by Andrew Breitbart. As it so often does, the old media, afraid of being labeled liberal, gave too much credence to a conservative source—and did too little to check its facts.