Journalism Or Entrapment?

In a post titled "Entrapping NPR", Ira Stoll writes:

As fascinating as it is to see what NPR executives are saying privately about Tea Party members, Zionists, and Jewish owners of newspapers... it seems to me that the techniques used to obtain the video are also troubling. The self-described "citizen journalists" lied. They intentionally falsified their own identities... For a group called "Project Veritas" to go around lying about who it is for the purpose of catching people saying silly things or getting reaction shots of the people sitting there laughing or eating while the Project Veritas members said silly things obscures the purpose of the organization, whose name, after all, means "truth." What is Project Veritas about, anyway? Lying? Or truth-telling?

In the age of Fox, that distinction has become blurred. To his credit, former BJ editor Michael Walsh acknowledges the point:

There ought to be a sharp line between ethical professional journalism and activist citizen-journalism, because the professionals generally have the technical experience to extract answers to questions without resorting to subterfuge.

But Chait takes a different view:

... unlike the vast bulk of O'Keefe's career, this is a legitimate act of journalism. Executives at NPR are public figures, and I don't have a problem with journalists using false pretenses to get public figures to reveal their true beliefs. As long as NPR gets federal funding, people have a legitimate interest in the political views of its staff, even if those political beliefs color the news coverage far less than conservatives believe.

But is O'Keefe a journalist rather than a page-view-prankster? Yes, we can learn a lot by such pranks - Scott Walker was a revealing victim. But there is a danger of what we'd call in other circumstances "entrapment." Especially given the rewards these stunts get in terms of attention and pageviews.