On April 25th, 2017 arguments were heard in U.S. District Court Southern District in the case of Carol Wilding, et al. V. Democratic National Committee, et al. in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In a class action lawsuit, which the mainstream media has largely ignored, Bernie Sanders supporters are seeking damages in the form of returned campaign donations made to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and to the Sanders campaign. Central to the plaintiff’s argument, Sanders supporters made donations in the understanding that they were participating in a free and fair elections process. Jared H. Beck, Esq., attorney for the plaintiffs, argued that evidence from leaked DNC emails showed that the DNC violated Article V, Section 4 of the DNC Charter, which stipulates that the DNC is required to ensure neutrality in the Democratic primaries, and therefore, defrauded Bernie Sanders supporters.
During arguments, Beck stated that “people paid money in reliance on the understanding that the primary elections for the Democratic nominee nominating process in 2016 were fair and impartial.” He further contended that, “that’s not just a bedrock assumption that we would assume just by virtue of the fact that we live in a democracy, and we assume that our elections are run in a fair and impartial manner. But that’s what the Democratic National Committee’s own charter says.”
Conversely, DNC attorney Bruce Spiva, who seemed somewhat unclear about what the Democratic National Committee actually does, argued that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the internal workings of the DNC. He also argued that the court would not be capable of interpreting what the DNC charter intended by its use of the words “impartial” and “evenhanded” and that the DNC has no obligation to honor the discretionary rule applying to neutrality. During arguments, Spiva stated,“we could have voluntarily decided that, look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party politics to answer those questions.”
In essence, Spiva argued what previous DNC attorneys have argued, which is that there is no enforceable obligation for the DNC to run impartial and fair primary elections, and that Sanders supporters should have assumed as much. For most who read the transcripts, this was an enormous gaffe, it was the DNC admitting that they never intended to run a fair primary election, and in their opinion, they didn’t have to. They could coerce, manipulate, lie, and do whatever it took to ensure their choice would be nominated, voters be damned.
The Young Turks’ Coverage
On May 1st, The Young Turks (TYT) published a commentary bit on the ongoing DNC lawsuit discussing the transcript of the most recent hearing, and rather than focusing on the DNC’s assumption that they are within their right to partake in such a wildly undemocratic practice, they chose to focus on legal semantics. In fact, John Iadarola, Michael Shure, and Mark Thompson seem to contend that the DNC was well-within their rights to enter a smoked filled room and choose the nominee. In a sort of, “hey that’s what the Republicans do” manner, the panel takes more issue with how the DNC lawyer made this disclosure than what the disclosure actually meant. Furthermore, panel member Mr. Shure goes out of his way to call the Plaintiff lawyers, Jared and Elizabeth Beck, “opportunistic lawyers,” implying they only took this case for the limelight.
What they missed, of course, is that Spiva’s argument is absurd, and it also completely undermines our democratic process of elections. It seems to escape the TYT panel’s attention that if the DNC is going to simply choose for the voter who the nominee will be, why hold primaries at all, why solicit our donations, and why waste our time? Furthermore, why are states paying for such primaries? Clearly, had the DNC stated they intended to use their connections with the media, and their sway with superdelegates, to ensure Clinton would win; Sanders supporters would not have donated their hard-earned cash to support him. Why would they have bothered?
Mr. Shure has since stated that he misspoke and overgeneralized.
Blurred Lines: Attribution Within the Context of Citizen Journalism
We’ve all seen it, journalists rushing toward submission to be the first one to “break” the story. The lines between who broke what/when is extremely blurred in today’s climate of citizen/activist journalism.
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) May 2, 2017
Jordan Chariton (a journalist at TYT) claims he broke the “smoky back rooms” part of the transcript taken from the latest DNC court hearing. Furthermore, he seems to demand that he be attributed for “breaking” the story, as though being the first to publish a story entitles you to a copyright over said story, meaning that every other story published on the same topic should reference/attribute him by virtue of being first. (As you will see below, we address his claims of being “first.”) He has defended this claim vigorously on his Twitter timeline, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) April 29, 2017
Beyond demanding attribution, which itself is problematic in this case, so is the highly sensationalized self-promotion of TYT’s own work. The above tweet, which links to Mr. Chariton’s Facebook post, introduces the DNC hearing transcript using the words “EXCLUSIVE” and “documents I obtained” within the description. This claim on its face is false. Mr. Chariton didn’t obtain exclusive content as the transcript originated from the JamPac website.
Furthermore, Mr. Chariton did not publish any written articles on the “back rooms” quote before Mr. Sainato’s piece was published. (The authors have checked Mediate, Medium, and Mr. Chariton’s own site, Truth Against the Machine, all sites on which he frequently publishes, but his first written article appears to be a Medium piece dated May 1.) Does this Facebook post warrant further tribute from all other journalists following the story?
If you follow Mr. Chariton’s Twitter defense of needed attribution you will see that he is only referring to attorney Spiva’s comments about the DNC being within their right to go into a “back room” and choose “a candidate that way”. This claim is also inaccurate as Facebook page Viva Bernie 2020 had coordinated with citizen journalists on the ground to be in the courtroom and interview Mr. Beck immediately following the hearing (3:25 mark of video), where he discusses the event in question. Other citizen journalists, including Zach Haller and Niko House, had given commentary on issues/information that Mr. Chariton is claiming to have broken well before his own reporting. We at the Progressive Army, though we did not report on the hearing, were in personal contact with people in the courtroom and thus, had a general idea of what was discussed during the hearing. Lastly, the hearing in question and the transcript were publicly advertised by the plaintiffs’ lawyer team which subjugates such content to the public domain.
We reached out to Mr. Chariton for comment in reference to the claims made herein and he responded with the following:
I personally think my reporting speaks for itself. Love citizen journalists and try to give them credit when I’m aware of stories they break or do. Just not willing to get into a game of semantics. Also think [such criticism] misses I was the first to report several other pieces of what the DNC attorney said, including the bizarre evoking of Donald Trump in their defense.
To be clear, this commentary is by no means a knock on Mr. Chariton’s reporting. Many of us (We, by no means, speak for everyone) at Progressive Army look forward to and appreciate his work, especially the on location reporting/interviews. Our focus here strictly lies in the presentation and demand for attribution of his reporting.
Michael Sainato’s Take
On April 29, TYT Politics Reporter Jordan Chariton claimed in a Facebook post to “break” an “exclusive” story on the class action lawsuit against the DNC.
“TYT Politics EXCLUSIVE:In Florida court documents I’ve obtained, DNC lawyer defending against election fraud lawsuit brought by Bernie Sanders voters said,” and the post went on to cite a few of the most notable quotes in the transcript of the lawsuit hearing that took place on April 25 in a Federal Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Except this wasn’t an exclusive story at all. The transcript was released by the attorneys on their JAMPAC website on April 28 as they announced they would be earlier in the week. Every page of the transcript has the official court reporter who wrote it, Francine C. Salopek’s name and phone number on them. The transcripts were tweeted from their DNC Fraud Lawsuit social media accounts who obtained them from the court, a standard procedure, meaning the documents were available to the public, not obtained exclusively by Chariton. The word “exclusive” infers the information you are purporting is the original source and isn’t available anywhere else, often used to market investigative reports, reporting from FOIA requests or anonymous tips on private documents.
4-25-17 court hearing transcript available NOW: https://t.co/OOIkk9o6zA
— DNC Fraud Lawsuit (@dncfraudlawsuit) April 28, 2017
From there, several Twitter users, including writer Zach Haller tweeted screenshots of the transcript and added some of his own commentary to each tweet. Another Twitter user, ActualFlatticus, cited the “cigar rooms,” quote, while Haller cited the rest that Chariton claimed to exclusively break in a Facebook post. Other users could be seen posting similar screenshots and commentary through the hashtag #DNCFraudLawsuit used to track updates, news, posts, and opinions from Twitter users on the lawsuit.
Seriously. If you're still a Democrat, get your head examined. pic.twitter.com/rRlwmS9Wt9
— Alan Smithee (@ActualFlatticus) April 28, 2017
So Chariton’s Facebook post wasn’t an exclusive. The story and the transcript were making the rounds in the Bernie Twitterverse and other people outside of it were beginning to take notice. Chariton made a Facebook post rather than write an article in a publication to try to grab the title as “first,” while the Young Turks issued a press release in an email falsely claiming the story was “exclusive.” No commentary or background was provided with the screenshots aside from a link to a live stream interview he conducted with Attorney Jared Beck earlier in the week.
Based on this Facebook post, Chariton has expected to be paid tribute to any other writer or journalist who reported on the transcript, while the Young Turks pushed the press release to try to appropriate their brand on the lawsuit against the DNC, an issue Chariton only started covering after the hearing because Attorney Jared Beck tweeted at him insisting he do so. Not only does the social media post arrogantly attempt to equate a Facebook or Twitter personality with journalism, it patronizes the other Twitter users who first cited what was in the transcript, making it arbitrary for a journalist to view those tweets and then appropriate them as their own exclusive right to report or discuss unless attributed for doing so.
Chariton complained about the article published in the Observer discussing the transcripts from the DNC class action lawsuit hearing, which no major publication reported on initially aside from myself the day before the hearing. I would never insist from other publications that did or hypothetically would report on the hearing afterward that I’m due credit within their article for reporting on something that was being publicly advertised by the attorneys representing Sanders Supporters and many Sanders Supporters themselves.
Chariton pettily tweeted in response to CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeting my article on the subject, “I actually broke this story-no attribution from @observer or @jaketapper,” upset that not enough people were taking a Facebook post seriously, particularly one that didn’t include anything different from the screenshots other people had been posting on social media prior to the post.
As I reported on the hearing, spoke with both attorneys representing Sanders Supporters, Jared and Elizabeth Lee Beck before and after the hearing, I was anticipating the transcripts from the hearing to be released Friday and had an idea of what they were going to contain as many other Sanders Supporters did. The DNC attorneys used the political promise argument in previous hearings and Beck noted in several interviews after the hearing they doubled down on it. When the transcripts were released I wrote up an analysis on what was discussed in the hearing and a recap of the similar arguments DNC attorneys have made in previous court hearings throughout the lawsuit.
I submitted the article on Friday, April 28, but my editors didn’t get around to putting it up until Monday morning. I didn’t tweet or post about it until it was published because everything I wanted or had to say about the transcripts and the lawsuit were in the article, other people were already tweeting screenshots of what I discussed in the article, and because content is more important than tweeting out a bunch of screenshots without any commentary, analysis, or anything just for the self-adulating purpose of propagating being first.
When Chariton began complaining on Twitter about not getting credit for just posting a few screenshots on Facebook, he received criticism and started having a meltdown over being called out for the ego driven whining of asserting he’s owed something for a Facebook post. He amended his argument several times, first inferring the transcripts were exclusively reported on by him, then because other Twitter users with large followings had tweeted and published about the transcripts before Chariton, the argument was then transfixed on the “backroom cigars” comment. “Nothing to do w/ arrogance. I was first national reporter to get the transcript text out to the public. That’s all,” he tweeted at one user. Now he’s a national reporter, granted special privileges to appropriate credit from any other Twitter user, citizen journalist, blogger, or writer, while simultaneously being owed praise for posting the same exact social media posts other people were making. That’s the epitome of arrogance, arguing your self-proclaimed title as a national reporter elevates you in a hierarchy above everyone else, and excuses you from putting in the time and work of publishing in a publication rather than rushing a quick post on Facebook, then failing to cite the original source to mislead your audience into believing that you are the original source. Nor was Chariton actually the first to report on the lawsuit hearing, as Niko House, who actually attended the hearing, posted a live stream video going over much of what was argued by the DNC Lawyers.
This wasn’t an original story and the original source is public record released by the court, typed by the official court reporter, Francine C. Salopek whose name is on every page of the released transcript that Chariton never cited. The transcripts from the hearing were very straightforward and didn’t require intensive research or sifting through. The “exclusive” label doesn’t apply. Its use, in this case, is to push a self-serving public relations narrative deliberately intended to transmogrify ignoring a story for nearly a year since the lawsuit was first filed to dramatizing oneself into the most important reporter on the scene.
A Broader Look
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) May 2, 2017
Apart from Mr. Chariton’s demand for attribution, given the circumstances outlined above, in today’s fast-paced digital world, it can be daunting if we are to be brought to task for not finding out who reported on what first and on what platform (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, digital print, etc). We think a friend of Progressive Army Mr. Geoff, Board member of People’s Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade, encompasses this view of new media when he told us “Truth is we all broke wiki. I was up early every day…it’s about justice.” Everyone is out there doing work.
Likewise, with the DNC lawsuit story, many people were going through the transcript as soon as it was released and made publicly available. They may have looked at each others’ tweets for good quotes or topics to look for, but their source was the transcript. Many people were all looking at the same source and wrote their own individual analyses of that source. Thus, they need to only attribute, or link to, the transcript as their source.
Although frustrated with the MSM media blackout, Plaintiff lawyer in the DNC lawsuit case Jared Beck is excited by the work being done by citizen journalists and the buzz within social media. Mr. Beck tells Progressive Army:
We’re grateful for all the wonderful coverage and spirited discussion about the lawsuit we’ve seen in the independent media and on social media. The ongoing mainstream media blackout is frustrating but we’re confident that the truth will ultimately see the light of day, and maybe even sooner than one might expect.
While Mr. Chariton argues that being first merits attribution, as we have thoroughly discussed, that simply is not warranted in this case. We respect Mr. Chariton as a good journalist who produces valuable work on issues that the mainstream media typically neglects. In fact, he often calls out the mainstream media for failing to cover the types of stories he routinely reports, and those admonishments are justified. Yet, this relationship between mainstream media and independent media also seems to be echoed in the developing relationship of citizen journalism and independent media, which are often intertwined. We must strive to treat citizen journalists as important and valuable members of the broader media field and work to build each other up rather than tearing each other down.