The AP's Thursday train wreck

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Just in case you didn't follow these developments, as highlighted by MMA yesterday (here, here, and here), you really ought to take a minute and familiarize yourself with the details because they represent an almost a complete breakdown in journalism. The fact that the AP, one of the oldest and most respected news organizations, could produce such a shoddy product in the process of peddling phony GOP talking points really makes you wonder about where journalism stands these days.

The colossal embarrassment also highlighted the hand-to-mouth feeding that's going on in Washington, D.C. today as the GOP tries to undermine the Obama administration's stimulus packaged, and news orgs scramble to the first ones to air the often baseless claims, without bothering to confirm if they're accurate and without bothering to contact Democrats for comments.

Like we said, the AP suffered a complete journalism breakdown yesterday and to date, nobody at the news org has acknowledged the fiasco, or explained how so many newsroom rules were ignored.

UPDATE: In the comments below "James" raises interesting points about how, according to some Congressional reporters, Democratic offices in Congress are slow to respond to reporters' requests, whereas Republicans very quickly return calls. The point being, for reporters on continuous deadlines all day, getting information from Democrats can be maddeningly slow.

That's certainly a valid critique. (And frankly, it's one I experienced over the years as a reporter with Salon.) Obviously the more information that reporters have in a timely basis is better for everyone involved. But in this specific case of the AP train wreck, it's not an excuse because the AP in its first report never even indicated that it tried to contact any Democrats for comment. There was no indication the AP ever tried to determine if the GOP spin about the stimulus package was accurate. Also, the entire AP story was built around a single anonymous Republican source.

There's simply no reason why the AP published a story as incomplete and inaccurate as the one it posted on its wires yesterday.

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