Is AP blurring the lines between news and opinion?
AP has been around, according to Politico, for 162 years. Recently, many in the blogosphere have turned sour on AP due to some legal grumblings by a blogger that was lifting entire articles from AP and posting them on his blog. But that isn’t what this post is about.
AP has, by and large, given us the news and nothing but the news. They very seldom waxed poetic about an issue or an individual. It was a ‘just the facts’ type of operation and their writeups might of been dry but they did provide us with basic facts. Recently AP underwent a change from the top down, removing Sandy Johnson as head of the Washington Bureau and replacing her with Ron Fournier.
Mr. Fournier believes its ok for journalists to insert their personal opinions into hard news stories. He thinks this means they are ‘cutting through the clutter’. As Steve Benen notes today over at The Carpetbagger Report, this blurs the line between a news story and an opinion piece:
If the AP wants to change the game, I’d be thrilled. But I’ve seen the results of Fournier’s work lately, and while the idea may have merit, there’s a problem in the execution.
I suppose the first time I noticed this “new” AP came in March, when Fournier wrote an item – whether it was a news article or an opinion piece was unclear – that said Barack Obama is “bordering on arrogance,” “a bit too cocky,” and that the senator and his wife “ooze a sense of entitlement.” To substantiate the criticism, Fournier pointed to … not a whole lot. It was basically the Republicans’ “uppity” talking point in the form of an AP article.
But the AP’s coverage has deteriorated since – and it goes beyond just the AP giving John McCain donuts and McCain giving the AP barbecue. There was the slam-job on Obama that read like an RNC oppo dump, followed by a scathing, 900-word reprimand of Obama’s decision to bypass the public financing system in the general election, filled with errors of fact and judgment.
If I want someones opinion, I read the OpEd pages or a specific writers column which is not trying to pass as a hard news story. I want my news to be free of a pundits pov. I just want the facts. AP, prior to Fournier’s hiring, was such an organization. As Michael Calderone notes in the Politico link:
Others warn that what Fournier and other proponents see as truth-telling can easily bleed into opinionizing — exactly the opposite of the AP’s mission of “delivering fast, unbiased news.”
“The problem,” says James Taranto, the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web columnist and a frequent critic of what he sees as the AP’s liberal bias, “is that while you can do opinion journalism and incorporate reporting into it, you can’t say you’re doing straight reporting, and then add opinion to that.”
I know that I am a leftwing nutjob, I freely admit it. But, I really do not want anyone’s personal pov when I read a hard news story, or what passes as a hard news story. Asking the hard questions of a candidate is the journalists job, and that is what I want from a journalist, but giving me his opinion of the candidate or a particular issue isn’t.
I see AP becoming more like Fox News wherein they sprinkle their personal propaganda/agenda throughout the writeup and then have the audacity to call it a hard news story. A good example below, again from the Politico article:
In April, Fouhy wrote a 225-word dispatch from South Bend, Ind. that called out the Clinton campaign for an event in which the candidate, with the press in tow, rode with a commuter to a gas station to fill up. The lead: “Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former first lady who hasn’t driven a car or pumped gas in many years because of Secret Service restrictions, joined a blue-collar worker at a filling station Wednesday to illustrate how the high price of gasoline is squeezing consumers.”
“It was a totally camera-driven political stunt that was one for the record books,” Fouhy said, adding that she was “taking Ron’s philosophy” in calling it as she sees it.(emphasis mine)
I feel I am intelligent enough that I realized what Hillary did was a political stunt..I didn’t need to be told that by Fouhy, just like when McCain did his little ‘walk though’ the Baghdad market last year, accompanied by helicopters and the full armament protection of the military. My problem with this type of journalism is this: Will they be honest enough to tell me when McCain does the same damn thing? I doubt it based on this writeup and this writeup. One person’s fact is another person’s opinion, in my humble point of view. Journalists give us the facts, pundits give us their opinion. With many media outlets cutting back on reporters, AP articles will be given more and more acreage on the front page of major newspapers. With these examples of what AP has gotten wrong lately..it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy.