San Francisco's Mother Jones Changes National Conversation | NBC Bay Area

San Francisco's Mother Jones Changes National Conversation

The vetting process for the hidden video took some time.



    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012)

    The daily lives of the writers and editors at "Mother Jones" are buzzing. And more than usual.

    That's because the liberal, investigative San Francisco magazine changed the national conversation Monday when one of its Washington, D.C.-based reporters broke the story about Mitt Romney's now- famous "47 percent speech."

    Vetting that speech, and then publicizing it, wasn't taken lightly. Editors said magazine members had the tape in their possession for "some time" and checking its veracity took nearly a month before making sure the video and story were ready to be made public. It's the biggest story, the editors said, the magazine has broken in its more-than-three-decade history.

    "We did extensive fact checking," Monika Bauerlein, a San Francisco-based Mother Jones editor said in a Tuesday interview with NBC Bay Area. "We didn't want to rush it to the web."

    She, along with co-editor, Clara Jeffery, reporter David Corn, and the rest of the team thoroughly fact-checked and vetted the story before publicizing it. One of the ways the Mother Jones team did that was by cross-referencing the time and date of the May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., that Romney attended with public accounts of fund raising events, she said.

    Other ways were finding impeccable sources, as was revealed Tuesday when NBC News first reported that the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter -- James Carter IV -- helped expose the hidden video at the Romney fundraiser. Carter IV did that, he told NBC News, by tracking down the original source who taped Romney at that Florida event through Twitter. He then persuaded that source, according to NBC News, to release the full tape to Mother Jones.

    Bauerlein confirmed this account.

    "We needed to know who the (original) source was," Jeffery added.  "And we wanted to make sure the transcript was dead on."

    Mother Jones put out part of that fundraiser video online Monday, where Romney noted  that half of the American electorate are freeloaders and "victims" who do not believe in personal responsibility.

    Romney's exact words:

    There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

    Late Monday, Romney did not apologize for the statement, but instead admitted that his comments were not "elegantly stated" and "off-the-cuff."

    To view the Today show's report on Romney's response and clips of the original video, click here.


    Because the Mother Jones editorial staff of about 30 was so diligent in their authentication of the information they received, Bauerlein said no one was nervous about the story's publication.

    "In fact," she said, "we waited a little longer than we would have journalistically wanted to, but we really wanted to make sure everything was solid before the story's release."

    The wait seemed to pay off. Bauerlein said that their magazine has been fielding calls from media outlets all over the world to interview them about the story behind the story. NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez had an exclusive on-air interview broadcast at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday.

    "This is the biggest story in terms of reach and audience," Jeffery added. The magazine, which typically has a circulation of about 200,000, had at least 2.4 million viewers click on the web story Tuesday evening since it posted the day before.

    As for how the staff is faring now, breaking more stories (see what Romney had to say about the two-state solution at that same fundraiser) and fielding media requests, Bauerlein said no one has yet to pop open a bottle of champagne at the Sutter Street office.

    "We're just too darn busy," she said. "But we might have time for a beer."

    Jodi Hernandez contributed to this report.