Sunday, November 15, 2009

Associated Press Incompetence Again--This Time with Eleven(!) Reporters

Joke: How many AP reporters does it take to change a light bulb? Eleven. One to screw it in and the other ten to turn the ladder.

AP is living out the joke but in reporting rather than changing light bulbs. The Associated Press recently assigned eleven (count 'em, eleven) reporters to a big news project. Mark Steyn explains:
If you wonder why American newspapering is dying, consider this sign-off:
AP writers Matt Apuzzo, Sharon Theimer, Tom Raum, Rita Beamish, Beth Fouhy, H. Josef Hebert, Justin D. Pritchard, Garance Burke, Dan Joling and Lewis Shaine contributed to this report.
Wow. That's ten "AP writers" plus Calvin Woodward, the AP writer whose twinkling pen honed the above contributions into the turgid sludge of the actual report. That's 11 writers for a 695-word report. What on? Obamacare? The Iranian nuke program? The upcoming trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

No, the Associated Press assigned 11 writers to "fact-check" Sarah Palin's new book, and in return the 11 fact-checkers triumphantly unearthed six errors. That's 1.8333333 writers for each error.
As Steyn points out, it took almost two AP reporters to unearth each "error". But, it turns out that a cursory read through shows a third of them aren't errors.

The first cited error is self-refuting on the AP's own terms. The AP Eleven make a big deal of Palin saying she didn't "often" stay at more expensive hotels. They then give one example when she did.
PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking "only" for reasonably priced rooms and not "often" going for the "high-end, robe-and-slippers" hotels.

THE FACTS: Although she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) for a five-hour women's leadership conference in New York in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000.
Uh, Calvin Woodard, Matt Apuzzo, Sharon Theimer, Tom Raum, Rita Beamish, Beth Fouhy, H. Josef Hebert, Justin D. Pritchard, Garance Burke, Dan Joling and Lewis Shaine, last time I checked one hotel stay is the same as (maybe even less than) “not ‘often’”.

Some actually relevant facts the AP Eleven had problems unearthing:
[Palin’s family] travel was processed by the Administrative Services Department, whose director served under the previous governor. Governor Palin followed the same protocol that past governors had followed. The one obvious difference, however, is that Governor Palin and her family spent less than her two predecessors. In fact, she spent over $913,000 less on personal expenses in her first two years than former Governor Frank Murkowski did his last two years.
Another AP Eleven assertion is not about facts but opinion about Palin's political motivation.
PALIN: "Was it ambition? I didn't think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons." Throughout the book, Palin cites altruistic reasons for running for office, and for leaving early as Alaska governor.

THE FACTS: Few politicians own up to wanting high office for the power and prestige of it, and in this respect, Palin fits the conventional mold. But "Going Rogue" has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.
This isn't THE FACTS. This is opinion. There are no FACTS cited from Palin's time in office as either city councillor, mayor or governor (more than a decade in office). The only fact given is that Palin has written an autobiographical book (Going Rogue). The book was written after Palin left office. Even if it is a "pre-campaign manifesto" (again, no facts given in support) how does that show motivation for her previous time in office (which is what the fact check is supposedly about)?

For a debunking of the other four AP Eleven fact check errors see Power Line and for an in depth, fact-filled treatment see Conservatives 4 Palin.


Hefmier said...

It made page 2 of The Sunday Oregonian. Thank goodness I only get a Sunday Paper from them. However, I am thinking about going with The Columbian now.

T. D. said...

Thanks for pointing out the Oregonian's slightly expanded version (8 fact check points instead of the 6 in the online version--but no note about the 10 AP reporters who helped Calvin Woodward with the piece). I hadn't seen it there before you pointed it out.

I have access to the Oregonian because it is being delivered free to my parents to try to woo them back as subscribers. But, the Oregonian has damaged its credibility so much in our family that for all us kids it's a waste of time reading it even free. (Though my parents are enjoying it enough to read the free delivered copies but not enough to subscribe again. They're at the age where they read the obituaries and have seen a plunge in content and quality even there since the Oregonian is trying to make money by having people pay for private "expanded" obituaries for their loved ones because the Oregonian's obituaries include so little information.)

I'm sorry about that. We are a newspaper reading family. We've now switched to books, magazines, the internet and cable news. If we had a newspaper available that didn't constantly insult our views and values and run stories like the AP mess which doesn't hold up under even minimal research, we would gladly subscribe.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.