Accuracy in Media

Two of the major wire services, Associated Press and Reuters, have been caught blatantly violating journalistic ethics.  First, AP falsely reported that a crowd at a Bush speech booed when the President wished Bill Clinton a speedy recovery from heart surgery.  Before that, a Reuters editor sent a hateful email to the National Right to Life Committee.  The bias will intensify as the election approaches.

Those who saw the President saying nice things about Clinton knew that the crowd did not boo.  What happened was that many said, “oooh,” as they were surprised by the news that Clinton was having heart problems.  Journalism 101 tells you there’s a big difference between “booo” and “oooh.”  The AP compounded the error by reporting that, after the boos, “Bush did nothing to stop them.”  Well, it turns out he did nothing to stop them because they were not guilty of booing the kind words about Clinton.  So Bush had nothing to stop.  AP should have stopped the bias.

We suppose it’s possible that a reporter could mistake a “boo” for an “oooh.”  But to add that the president “did nothing to stop them” should have been a tip-off that the crowd was not booing.  After all, would Bush and the crowd be that heartless and cruel?  That perception may, in fact, be what motivated the AP reporter who did the story.  The reporter may have believed all those stories about Republicans being mean-spirited people.

AP soon “retracted” the report “citing uncertainties about how to characterize the crowd’s reaction.”  But other reporters there had not reported the alleged “boos.”  So the uncertainties were on the part of AP alone.  AP then ran a story admitting that the “booos” were “ooohs.”

Over at the Reuters wire service, it has become apparent that the mean-spiritedness is a characteristic of a high-level editor, Todd Eastham.  In this case, media bias is so bad that Eastham actually sent an email to National Right to Life outlining his own anti-Bush and pro-abortion views.  After getting a press release from the pro-life group, Eastham sent an email in response, saying, “What’s your plan for parenting & educating all the unwanted children you people want to bring into the world?  Who will pay for policing our streets & maintaining the prisons needed to contain them when you, their parents & the system fail them?  Oh, sorry.  All that money has been earmarked to pay off the Bush deficit.  Give me a frigging break, will you?”

Doug Johnson of National right to Life commented, “It is sad, but revealing, to see an editor for a major news service so casually and gratuitously express such blatant hostility to both the Bush administration and to the right to life of unborn children?  We can only wonder at how such vehement opinions may color Mr. Eastham’s reporting or editing on subjects such as abortion and the Bush administration.”  Johnson points to the Reuters Editorial Policy, which states that, “Reuters journalists do not offer their own opinions or views.”  Reuters is the same news agency that does not describe terrorists as terrorists.  To paraphrase Mr. Eastham, their pro-abortion extremist editor, give me a break.

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