Wednesday, September 23, 2009

AFP / Associated Press Incompetence Rears Its Head Again

UPDATE: In a third attempt on this story AP rebuts some of the assertions made in its first report, actually names some of its sources, and though still quoting anonymous sources drops all the anonymous sources from both its first and second reports. The second try, published in The Washington Post, gives almost no facts on what Palin's speech was about. The third version includes some facts, named sources and, though so-so as an information source, is miles ahead of the first two tries. Looks like it takes AP three tries to get something substantive.

Perhaps one of the reasons that 60% of Americans now view the press as incompetent due to inaccurate reporting and bias is the low level of reporting skills from news agencies like AFP (French) and the Associated Press (American).

AFP in a 600 word article on Sarah Palin’s speech in Hong Kong couldn’t find a single named source to quote.
Some of those who attended praised her forthright views on government social and economic intervention and others walked out early in disgust.

"She was brilliant," said a European delegate, on condition of anonymity.

"She said America was spending a lot of money and it was a temporary solution. Normal people are having to pay more and more but things don't get better. The rich will leave the country and the poor will get poorer."

Two US delegates left early, with one saying "it was awful, we couldn't stand it any longer". He declined to be identified.
. . .
"It was almost more of a speech promoting investment in Alaska," he said, declining to be named.

"As fund managers we want to hear about the United States as a whole, not just about Alaska. And she criticised Obama a lot but offered no solutions."

Another said he was disappointed that she took only pre-arranged questions.
. . .
Several delegates saw the speech as a sign of her ambitions to run as a presidential candidate in 2012 and a useful indication of the potential direction of US politics in the future.

"It was fairly right-wing populist stuff,' one US delegate said.
. . .
Another from the United States said: "She frightens me because she strikes a chord with a certain segment of the population and I don't like it."
[emphasis added]

The Associated Press, in a much shorter article (290 words) also couldn’t find any named sources for its quoted remarks. AP’s only sources were copied AFP anonymous sources. Talk about lack of shoe leather reporting.
Two US delegates left early, according to AFP, with one saying "it was awful, we couldn't stand it any longer." He declined to be identified.
. . .
Some attendees were disappointed by her focus on her home state and her attacks on President Obama.

"As fund managers we want to hear about the United States as a whole, not just about Alaska," one told AFP. "And she criticized Obama a lot but offered no solutions."
[emphasis added]

[Both the second and third AP reports drop these anonymous sources, and the third revision makes the opposite point: the speech was moderate with no direct attack on President Obama.
“[Missing] was the sharp partisan edge of the politician who toured the country as Sen. John McCain's running mate. She appeared more moderate, did not attack President Obama directly and avoided any major gaffes, attendees said.

"She has learned and grown from the election," said Melvin Goode, New York-based consultant who said he'd carried out some political polling for President Barack Obama in the past. "She was more level headed. ... She didn't criticize. I was waiting to see if she said anything derogatory about Obama, and she didn't."(emphasis added)]

Though finding two people who walked out on Palin’s, neither AFP nor AP apparently had any idea how well attended the session was and if walking out was an anomaly. Reuters (“a packed audience of financial professionals”), Bloomberg ("a full house in the main ballroom of Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt hotel"), and The New York Times ("packed hotel ballroom"). [AP’s third try finally notes that the “room packed with more than a thousand investors and bankers at an annual investment conference”.]

Serious journalists actually followed up their assertions with named sources like (The New York Times):
A number of people who heard the speech in a packed hotel ballroom, which was closed to the media, said Mrs. Palin spoke from notes for 90 minutes and that she was articulate, well-prepared and even compelling.

“The speech was wide-ranging, very balanced, and she beat all expectations,” said Doug A. Coulter, head of private equity in the Asia-Pacific region for LGT Capital Partners.

“She didn’t sound at all like a far-right-wing conservative. She seemed to be positioning herself as a libertarian or a small-c conservative,” he said, adding that she mentioned both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. “She brought up both those names.”
. . .
Cameron Sinclair, another speaker at the event, said Mrs. Palin emphasized the need for a grassroots rebirth of the Republican Party driven by party leaders outside Washington.

A number of attendees thought Mrs. Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, was using the speech to begin to broaden her foreign policy credentials before making a run for the presidency in 2012.

“She’s definitely a serious future presidential candidate, and I understand why she plays so well in middle America,” said Mr. Coulter, a Canadian.
. . .
Mr. Coulter said CLSA has a history of inviting keynote speakers who are “newsworthy and potentially controversial.” Other previous speakers at the conference have included Al Gore, Alan Greenspan, Bono and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Mrs. Palin’s speech took place at the Grand Hyatt on the Victoria Harbor waterfront and amid the soaring towers of corporate giants like AIG, HSBC and the Bank of China. Some attendees saw Hong Kong as an auspicious place for her first major international appearance.

Melvin Goodé, a regional marketing consultant, thought Mrs. Palin chose Hong Kong because, he said, it was “a place where things happen and where freedom can be expanded upon.”

“It’s not Beijing or Shanghai,” said Mr. Goodé . “She also mentioned Tibet, Burma and North Korea in the same breath as places where China should be more sensitive and careful about how people are treated. She said it on a human-rights level.”

Mr. Goodé, an African-American who said he did some campaign polling for President Obama, said Mrs. Palin mentioned President Obama three times on Wednesday.

“And there was nothing derogatory in it, no sleight of hand, and believe me, I was listening for that,” he said, adding that Mrs. Palin referred to Mr. Obama as “our president,” with the emphasis on “our.”

Mr. Goodé, a New Yorker who said he would never vote for Mrs. Palin, said she acquitted herself well.

“They really prepared her well,” he said. “She was articulate and she held her own. I give her credit. They’ve tried to categorize her as not being bright. She’s bright.”
[emphasis added]

From The Wall Street Journal:
Ms. Palin's address, which drew strong applause at the end, was officially closed to the media. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a recording of the speech.
. . .
Melvin Goodé, a 49-year-old New York-based property consultant who attended the speech, said he voted for Mr. Obama in last year's election but was curious to hear what Ms. Palin had to say. He shrugged his shoulders when asked his thoughts on the speech but said that she generally did all right, given that she "wasn't supposed to know anything about the continent." "Now, let's see what the critics say," he said.
[emphasis added]

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