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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

WHAT IS GOING ON AT AP? Editors Doubt News Service is Reporting Whole Story; New York Managers Get Defensive, But Promise Change

AP managers in New York got an earful recently from a bunch of editors beyond the Hudson River who wonder if the nation's most widely used news service is telling the whole story about the War in Iraq and U.S. reconstruction efforts in that ancient land.

The New York Times' quotes Tampa Tribune Editorial Page Editor Rosemary Goudreau:

"The bottom-line question was, people wanted to know if we're making progress in Iraq," Ms. Goudreau said, and the A.P. articles were not helping to answer that question. "It was uncomfortable questioning The A.P., knowing that Iraq is such a dangerous place," she said. "But there's a perception that we're not telling the whole story."

Mike Silverman, AP's Managing Editor, insisted his reporters in the field were trying to present all sides of the news from Iraq while coping with tremendous logistical difficulties and the inherent dangers of covering a war zone.

Silverman acknowledged, however, that like Goudrean and other editors he has also heard from returning soldiers and civilian contractors about incomplete reporting, with too much emphasis on the daily toll of U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians being killed and injured by insurgents.

The Times quoted Seattle Times Deputy Managing Editor Suki Dardarian said editors like Goudrea were encouraging the news service to provide readers with "as much context as you can bring."

Dardarian, who is also Vice President of the board of directors of the Associated Press Managing Editors, also defended Silverman and Kathleen Carroll, AP Executive Editor, claiming the editors were asking some questions without answers, according to the Times:

"For example, she said, the editors understood that it was much easier to add up the number of dead than to determine how many hospitals received power on a particular day or how many schools were built."

Dardarian's defense of AP management illustrates why there is not likely to be much of a change in the news service's reporting. It is likely hard to know on any given day how many hospitals have power restored or schools are reopened, but summary data on those positive aspects of the U.S. reconstruction effort has long been available from the Pentagon and other sources. AP has simply ignored that data or buried it the avalanche of negative stories produced by its reporting staff.

UPDATE:

MaryKatharine Ham is a former MSM journalist and presently associate editor of Townhall.com. She's also a sharp wit and knows how to critique journalism. Her column on the Mark Yost flap is full of good sense that Mike Silverman and the rest of the AP leadership in New York and across the country would do well to study.

Among other things, MaryKatharine skewers the attitude so common among MSMers when confronted by criticism of their Iraq coverage from folks on the Right:

"Hannah Allam, Knight-Ridder’s Baghdad bureau chief, is undoubtedly a brave woman doing very hard work. She is right to defend her copy and coworkers, but her line of defense is strange. She invites Yost to come to Baghdad, because as everyone knows, you’re allowed to talk about how bad Iraq is from a distance with complete authority, but once you start suggesting some good things are happening there, you better be swooping in with your legs slung out the door of a Huey, chickenhawk!"

Read MaryKatherine's whole column here.

Michelle Malkin shares my skepticism about changes at AP.