Saturday, September 04, 2004

The AP: "Disappearing News Since 2004"

Apparently, the AP may have dipped into Lexis-Nexis, too. Reader Gary writes in that the first AP version of the "booing" story appeared not, as I had previously written, at 2:12 p.m. with the Tom Hays story, but at 1:57 p.m. with an un-bylined short report. The AP has taken this report down, but still has it up, for now.

As of last night, this version of the story which has, had been stricken from Nexis, and the first instance of the "booing" report was in the longer Hays piece from 2:12 p.m. Perhaps Hays simply appropriated the reporting from the earlier item. We have no way of knowing unless the AP comes out and tells us.

This morning, the AP is moving to further cover its tracks. The Hays story from Nexis which I posted last night has been removed from Lexis-Nexis altogether. Now, the first mention of President Bush's remarks about President Clinton's health comes in the form of this entry which has no byline and no time-stamp:

Copyright 2004 Associated Press
September 3, 2004 Friday

LENGTH: 185 words

HEADLINE: Bush Offers Best Wishes for Clinton


President Bush on Friday offered former President Bill Clinton, who faces heart bypass surgery, "best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery."

"He is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally in Wisconsin.

The crowd reacted with applause and with some "ooohs," apparently surprised by the news that Clinton was ill.

Later, aboard Air Force One, Bush called Clinton to express his concern for his heart problems, according to presidential spokesman Scott McClellan.

The president told Clinton that he and the first lady were praying for him and wished him a "speedy recovery," McClellan said.

Bush offered his wishes while campaigning one day after accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York. Clinton was hospitalized in New York after complaining of mild chest pain and shortness of breath.

Bush recently praised Clinton when the former president went to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait. He lauded Clinton for his knowledge, compassion and "the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president."

First of all, good for the AP for fixing the faulty reporting and including what seems to be an accurate description of the Republican crowd's reaction to bad news about President Clinton's health.

But the AP's conduct with regards to the rest of this story is not reassuring. We have an un-bylined bit of faulty reporting which was incorporated into the bylined work of another reporter without accreditation. After being confronted by the blogosphere, the AP pulled versions of the bad reporting from the web and the first instance of it from Lexis-Nexis. After it was revealed here at Galley Slaves that the bad reporting lived on in other versions of the story in Nexis, the AP went into Nexis and disappeared it from there, too. Then, they inserted a cleaned-up version with no time-stamp whatsoever. By the time media reporters like Jim Romenesko and Howard Kurtz and Jack Shafer get back to the office on Tuesday, there will be no story, because the AP will have completely altered all of the evidence.

In fact, as it stands right now, the only evidence that the AP ever made this enormous error is on blogs, such as this one, which copied the offending stories--remember, Lexis-Nexis does not page-cache the way Google does.

The AP's conduct reminds me of the famous Soviet picture of the Bolshevik leaders sitting on the couch. It began with the entire high command, and over the years, as individuals fell out of favor and were disappeared, was airbrushed over and over until, in the end, it showed only Lenin and Stalin, who were mysteriously seated on opposite ends of an enormous sofa.

For its own good, the Associated Press should not be allowed to get away with this. It's a fine and valuable media institution. Mistakes get made all the time. There's nothing particularly damning about a reporting screw-up. But this cover-up casts real doubt on their organizational judgment and ethics.


Anonymous said...


My Hardball Briefing dated yesterday (Friday, 9/3) and time-stamped 3:22 p.m. EST leads with the AP story about booing. It links to the version, which still hasn't been taken down, as you noted this morning.

I don't know how big Hardball's mailing list is, but I would guess it's fairly substantial.

Now I have to figure out a way to email the list editor, Dominic Bellone, and ask him to correct the story. Here's how it reads in my Hardball email:

"We've taken leave of our Herald Square location and set up shop at 30 Rock (that's 30 Rockefeller Plaza, our NBC headquarters for you civilians) for the day. By now you've heard about Bill's Clinton's need to have quadruple bypass surgery after he complained of chest pains, or maybe you haven't.

Audience boos as Bush offers best wishes for Clinton's recovery (AP)

We'll get the latest on his condition and talk to NBC's Andrea Mitchell & former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers. We'll do Clinton health reax and of course a Convention post mortem. "

Sickening. Let's keep this alive until the major players RETRACT the story.

Great blog, keep up the good work.

Cate from Saratoga Springs, NY

Duane said...

The story also lives on at The Age, an Australian paper. I e-mailed the news desk to inform them of the AP slander and they sent this reply:

Hi Duane, we are checking this now...

Best regards,

Julia Medew
The Sunday Age

We'll see if it ever gets retracted or just "disappeared".

Duane said...

UPDATE: Editor and Publisher has the story.
"In a dispatch sent to subscribers in early afternoon, the AP reported that when Bush, at a campaign rally in West Allis, Wisconsin, told the crowd that he wished to send Clinton his "best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery," the audience "of thousands booed. Bush did nothing to stop them."

Pretty damning, except that AP soon changed its story, only after the original appeared on many Web sites."
Blogsphere - 1 / AP - 0

jaed said...

The crowd reacted with applause and with some "ooohs,"You know, having listened to the tape, this is still not correct. The crowd gasps when Bush tells them Clinton has been hospitalized. Then he goes on to make the remark about "speedy recovery", whereupon the crowd cheers and applauds. Loudly.

Two different moments, and two separate crowd reactions to different Bush comments. It's very clear on the tape what shocks the crowd (the news) and what they applaud (the good wishes). It's not at all clear in the AP's latest account. In fact, it seems deliberately fuzzed.

This reads almost as though it's written to provide plausible deniability to the original fiction. "See, the writer confused these 'ooh' sounds with boos."

Anonymous said...

Blogs are not the only place the lie lives on. The story was picked up by a number of newspapers and TV stations. Try a google search on "West Allis" & "audience boos". WBBM-TV in Chicago has not made the correction, nor has Newsmax still has it up as well.

Editor said...

KWWL in Iowa still has the story displayed.

I called Friday evening and emailed today, but no luck.

I've listed the station management with their names, phone numbers, and email addresses here:

Please help...

Tomasine said...

Here's a link to the AP booing story.

Anonymous said...

"has been removed from Lexis-Nexis altogether"

Hmmm, so after all these years and fears of government manupulating the news, we find at last that Winston Smith works for . . . the Associated Press????

John Fembup (too much trouble to register)

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know that have changed the story to ooohs.
"Bush offers best wishes for Clinton's recovery
By Associated Press, 9/3/2004 18:06 The crowd reacted with applause and with some "ooohs," apparently surprised by the news that Clinton was ill."
The funny thing is the link to the page still says audience boos.

Anonymous said...

I really hope you guys write an article on this one. Editor and Publisher barely scratched the surface on this one. Here's something I found on another blog:

A little more on the boo-a-rama, from a reporter on the scene ...

Karen Hughes went totally apesh-t at the AP when that dispatch hit the wire.

She stormed up the bleachers and starting screaming at the AP writer (who took it in stride). "They didn't boo! Were you and I in the same rally! What is this crap?" or something along those lines (it was loud in there). The AP writer then canvassed his colleagues, who all said they hadn't heard any boos.

T. More said...

Mr. Last,

You are too easy on the AP here--sure, "mistakes" happen all the time. This is not mistake, clearly, it is a most outrageous smear of not just the president "who did nothing" but of the thousands of callous people who are alleged to have booed an ailing man. This did not happen, and to report its happening requires more than an error, it requires a slanderous mendacity that even the most cynical critic of the media would have thought unusual. But if AP is not even willing to acknowledge it and repudiate it, that may mean things are even worse than we thought.

So, while there is "nothing damning" about a reporting screw up, there is much that is damning here.

Anonymous said...

Dear Galley Slaves:
I just know you will enjoy seeing Kerry's senate campaign ad from 1984.
Be sure to look at both pages/links.

Anonymous said...

I hope this link will stay good:

This is a PERFECT example of the kind of bias shown routinely by AP in its reporting. Check out the intense effort that was made here with regard to documentation of Bush's National Guard service. No such effort has been made to determine whether Kerry has released his records. I strongly suspect that they didn't really make the effort themselves, it was just fed to them by the DNC. AP is now the official wire service of the Democrats.