The venerable Associated Press news agency was formed in 1846 by New York City newspapers to fund a Pony Express route for obtaining news regarding the Mexican War. In the approaching two centuries since then, AP has maintained a solid reputation for diligence and accuracy in its reporting, that’s depended upon by the vast number of news outlets and other media that publish AP’s reports.
In my own dealings with AP over the years, I’ve found their reporters to be knowledgeable, intelligent, and fair-minded, working hard to get to the facts of events. In AP items where I’ve been quoted, my referenced quotes have always been correct and in the appropriate context.
So it’s difficult for me to fathom AP’s behavior in the current controversy over their direct misstatement of facts regarding Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, and their refusal to admit that they royally botched this up, even in the face of virtually universal condemnation regarding this case.
AP started down this self-humiliating path last Tuesday, when it tweeted:
BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.
That tweet is still up on AP’s Twitter feed. AP continues to refuse to remove it or admit that as written it was a totally false statement — that is, a lie.
In reality, that statistic applied to an extremely limited subset of meetings — only 154 out of many thousands — that Hillary Clinton had held in her official capacity with both government employees and private citizens during her tenure at the State Dept.
The AP’s cowardly explanation of this tweet and their failure to report accurately regarding this matter basically boils down to their frustration that the State Dept. has been slowly releasing Clinton’s calendar records from the period — so apparently they felt it appropriate just to go ahead and misrepresent the available small subset of data as if it were the entirety of the data that will ultimately become available for analysis.
It’s pretty easy to guess what happened next. Someone in AP’s social media department presumably wanted the most “bang for the buck” when they tweeted this story, and composed a clickbait tweet that would fit within Twitter’s 140 character limit.
That the tweet utterly misrepresented the actual facts, and instantly provided Donald Trump and other Hillary haters a handy piece of false propaganda to yell at rallies, apparently was not within the sphere of AP’s concern.
We all understand what’s been happening in the news biz. Clicks and eyeballs increasingly come before facts and truth. But to see AP sink to this low level is painful and distressing.
To make matters worse, AP appears to now be channeling Trump himself, refusing to admit that their story was misleading and that their tweet was an outright travesty. They’re refusing to apologize or correct the record, and are displaying much the same sort of intransigence that Trump himself famously displays when caught in misrepresentations, half-truths, or outright lies.
Perhaps worst of all, we’re now faced with the inevitable question of how much we should trust AP’s future stories, tweets, and other pronouncements, especially while AP continues to permit that original false tweet to stand.
In a sea of rapidly declining journalistic standards around the world, Associated Press has stood out like a bright beacon of truth amid the gloom. Now it appears that even that light is dimming.
I hope that AP changes course and admits their errors and misjudgments in this matter. They can still avoid the fate of so many other news organizations who have permitted themselves to devolve into lowest common denominator clickbait pablum.
But this is indeed a dark time for journalism. And it’s an even darker time for all of us who depend upon professional journalists to fairly and accurately help us understand what’s going on in the world around us.
And that’s the truth.
I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so — my opinions expressed here are mine alone.
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The correct term is “Internet” NOT “internet” — please don’t fall into the trap of using the latter. It’s just plain wrong!