Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Real Faux News

If you've noticed a lot of Associated Press articles look contrived, stretching to make a point without the evidence, or even in contradiction of the evidence, there's a good reason for that. The AP's management has decided that speaking truth to power, attitude and flashiness will make it relevant in the Internet age. (More about that later in this article).

When you try to fit facts into that Procrustean bed, the truth is going to get stretched or amputated as reporters try to make 2+2 equal 5. Like, for instance, this article in AP's "Fact Check" file, found through Best of the Web.

The facts allegedly checked are Republican criticisms of the Obama stimulus bill. It leads off with a whopper of a bogus "fact check" against the senior Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica.:

MICA SAID: Transportation money is slow to get out because of "red tape" slowing things down.

THE FACTS: Republicans are correct that only a small percentage of the $48 billion in transportation money has been spent. But red tape is a red herring. In fact, stimulus projects have to be ready to begin quickly. Projects that have yet to clear permitting, environmental review or other bureaucratic hurdles won't get funded because they won't meet the law's deadlines.

If "permitting, environmental review or other bureaucratic hurdles" are not red tape, then nothing is.

That faux-clever distortion to be expected when a news organization forces facts into a template. The reporters aren't the only ones to blame, they are following orders from AP's management.

Much of the blame goes to the AP's Washington bureau chief, Ron Fournier, who fancies himself an opinion leader, shaping how America sees the world. Fournier left AP a few years ago for a failed political venture called, then pathetically crawled back to AP still retaining his desire to make the news, not report it. A story in Politico neatly sums up what Fournier is doing.

And then there is Fournier's boss, executive editor Kathleen Carroll, summing up the shallowness of the new AP by saying in another Politico story -- I am not making this up --“It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

“We probably weren’t as boring as you thought we were,” Carroll said when asked about the new style, adding that the AP has made “enormous changes” since she became editor in 2002. “Don’t make us decrepit or dull when we’re not."

It's always reassuring to read about a journalist who's got higher priorities than that boring old accuracy stuff.

P.S. -- Read my colleague Tom Blumer's exquisite takedown of a flawed AP economics story, showing precisely where the numbers are mistaken or out of context.


  1. I get kick out of the AP "Fact Check" headline: "GOP Joins Spin Game Over Jobs"

    "Spin," huh? (Well... at least the AP editor had the "courtesy" to include "Joins" in his or her headline.

    Still, the best that can be construed to give the AP the benefit of the doubt is that the headline's role is to discredit the motives and tactics of both the GOP and the Democrats while inferring that only the AP is above "spinning" the truth.

    Interestingly enough, if you scroll down to the bottom of the "Fact Check" in question, you'll find a section titled "Related Articles." First title on the list...

    "GOP Joins Murky Math on Stimulus Jobs"

    Does the AP accusatory spotlight seem to focus on the GOP - the Party OUT of power? It sure does look that way.


  2. As to the Politico piece on Ron Fournier...

    QUOTE: "Fournier is a main engine in a high-stakes experiment at the 162-year old wire to move from its signature neutral and detached tone to an aggressive, plain-spoken style of writing that Fournier often describes as “cutting through the clutter.”

    Hmm. The AP's "signature neutral and detached tone...?" Well, style aside, cutting to the heart of the AP's problem, the AP has skewed Left for more years than I care to look back upon.

    Yes, I realize and respect that this site is not a "news bias unmasking" site per se, but with any discussion of the AP it must be acknowledged that there is and has long been a general acceptance (and thus passing along) of a "liberal" world view.

    As to you colleague Tom Blumer's "exquisite takedown of a flawed AP economics story," well, case in point.

    Anyway... keep up the good work!