After the Associated Press waited over 14 hours before changing an erroneous story about Hillary Clinton, without issuing an update or correction, ZDNet's David Gewirtz has questions about the integrity of the outlet's reporting.
On March 4, the AP published a story claiming that Clinton used a fake identity, "Eric Hoteham," to register the domain name associated with Clinton's personal email address. This was later discovered to be a misspelled version of a real name, Eric Hothem, who is a former aide to Clinton.
Gewirtz documented a laundry list of changes made to the piece after the AP discovered this information, noting that the AP let the story "run through an entire day's news cycle, and then changed that story in the same article later that evening - without ever releasing an update or correction."
"What worries me," Gewirtz wrote, "is what this sort of drive-by journalism means for the future of news as a source of well-researched, vetted, and transparent reporting." From the piece (emphasis added):
The original assertion by AP that a former Secretary of State might have used a fake name for the probably equally incorrect premise that she has been hiding official email on a "homebrew" server in her house has been resolved, but not before AP let the story run for almost 15 hours, creating a new "Hillary Clinton is evil because..." myth. Then AP didn't bother to print a retraction -- it simply edited the piece and hoped we'd all forget.
But if the Clintons are anything beyond political animals, they're news-cycle survivors.
What worries me is what this sort of drive-by journalism means for the future of news as a source of well-researched, vetted, and transparent reporting.
AP's behavior with this story was a disappointment. It syndicates stories to a great many outlets, and I've always considered it to have the highest journalistic integrity. Now? I'll just chalk this one up to a bad editing mistake; but in the future, if it doesn't clarify substantive and important changes like it made to their Clinton article, we may have to question their credibility in other reporting.
Full column below:
The New York Times kicked off a pseudo-scandal over Hillary Clinton's use of a non-government email while serving as secretary of state, a manufactured controversy straight out of the GOP's Benghazi witch hunt. While the Times dug in its heels despite significant shortcomings in its reporting, the media piled on with innuendo and reckless speculation that is now being cited by Republicans to justify superfluous Benghazi investigations.
Speaking to the Associated Press, a former Fox News O'Reilly producer highlighted Bill O'Reilly's tendency to twist the truth, saying that hyperbole and exaggeration are "baked into" O'Reilly's persona and job description.
Bill O'Reilly has been embroiled in controversy after Mother Jones and Media Matters exposed numerous fabrications in O'Reilly's accounts of reporting on the Falklands War, the El Salvadoran Civil War, and the death of a figure in the investigation into JFK's assassination.
From the Associated Press on February 27:
The only way O'Reilly can be seriously damaged is if more allegations about his statements come forward from sources other than partisan organizations, said Joe Muto, a former O'Reilly producer fired by Fox after he began writing an anonymous blog as the "Fox mole."
"Ultimately, he'll survive this because he's not held -- by his bosses, or the public, or himself -- to the same standards of truth-telling as Brian Williams is," Muto said. "People expect a certain degree of hyperbole and exaggeration from O'Reilly. It's baked into the job description. It's part of his persona."
The Associated Press reported that national groups including the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are heralding the repeal of West Virginia's alternative energy mandate as a lynchpin to repeal stronger renewable energy standards in other states. But the AP identified the Heartland Institute and ALEC only as "national small government groups," ignoring their significant ties to the fossil fuel industry.
West Virginia will likely soon become the first state to repeal an alternative energy standard, following a multi-year campaign by fossil fuel interests to target more environmentally-friendly renewable energy standards in statehouses across the country. In recent days, both chambers of the West Virginia state legislature easily passed a bill repealing the state's Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires 25 percent of the state's energy to come from alternative power sources (including non-renewable sources) by 2025.
The AP reported on January 31 that groups including the Heartland Institute and ALEC "argue renewable energy plans limit free market choices and could result in higher electricity costs," but did not reveal that these groups are tied to fossil fuel interests that would benefit from repealing clean energy standards:
After West Virginia legislators voted to delete a law that counts burning tires and some coal as alternative fuels, national small government groups are turning the uncontroversial repeal into a rally cry to remove more stringent energy standards in other states.
National small government lobbies, including The Heartland Institute, still heralded the repeal's passage in West Virginia in early January as a win and a call to action.
"One can only hope other states follow West Virginia's sensible lead," H. Sterling Burnett, Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy for The Heartland Institute, said in a news release after the state House passed the bill Jan. 22.
The groups argue renewable energy plans limit free market choices and could result in higher electricity costs. But for years, the American Legislative Exchange Council and others have failed to get any states to delete their standards.
As The Washington Post has noted, "In many cases, the groups involved [in efforts to undermine renewable energy standards and other environmental initiatives] accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers." The anti-renewables campaign by Heartland and ALEC is a case in point.
A Media Matters review of several major newspapers found that their coverage of congressional efforts to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline has been missing an essential component of the story: the hundreds of millions of dollars that the fossil fuel industry spent in the midterm elections to elect members of Congress who support Keystone XL and other aspects of the oil industry's agenda. Of the newspapers reviewed, only The New York Times tied congressional support for Keystone XL back to the fossil fuel industry's campaign contributions.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's plan to launch what some are calling a "state-run news service" is drawing harsh criticism from Indiana news outlets who say the move is a blatant effort to bypass the press and spin information.
Pence, a Republican, will create Just IN, a website that will seek to break news about his administration and utilize state press secretaries headed by a former reporter to provide written stories for news outlets. The website will launch in February, according to The Indianapolis Star, which obtained documents detailing the project.
The Star added that "the endeavor will come at some taxpayer cost, but precisely how much is unclear. The news service has two dedicated employees, whose combined salary is nearly $100,000, according to a search of state employee salary data."
Local outlets across the country have been strapped for cash and cutting back on statehouse coverage, conservative outlets have attempted to fill the void by offering free access to their own slanted stories. Pence's proposal appears to be a similar effort to flood the state with free "journalism" in the hopes that desperate papers and news stations are willing to run such work.
But Indiana news outlets were quick to condemn the approach as a clear effort to bypass an independent press, with one editor declaring it "troubling," and another calling it "uncomfortable."
"I can't imagine a scenario where we would" print Just IN stories, Jeff Taylor, editor and vice president of The Star, told Media Matters. "You don't pick up news stories from government agencies and use them as news stories that have been vetted and given the kind of scrutiny that you give to the information that we report."
"There's a big difference between press releases that can lead to legitimate stories where reporters can ask questions and look into information and sift between factual information and something that might have an agency behind it," he added.
"It's not the Associated Press, it's not our coverage, we wouldn't run it verbatim anywhere because it's not independent news," said Bob Heisse, editor of The Times of Munster. "No, we certainly wouldn't use any of that."
Bob Zaltsberg, editor of The Herald Times of Bloomington, said anything from the governor's office would be treated as a news release, not a publishable story.
"We wouldn't take anything from a state-run news agency and just publish it as news, we would do our independent reporting," he said, adding that it appears the governor's office is trying to control the message.
"It seems like they want to go into competition with the mainstream news media that's trying to watch out for what government does," he added. "It's trying to control the message in a way that's not healthy for democracy."
He and other editors said the move comes as many publications have been cutting back on Indiana statehouse coverage in response to budget cuts.
"There has been a tremendous cutback in statehouse reporters there, we haven't had a statehouse reporter in decades," Zaltsberg said. "What's really telling is they are organizing this and they are going to have reporters and break news and that makes everyone in the media nervous and apprehensive and very uncomfortable. It makes me very, very nervous."
The downward trend of female leaders in U.S. newsrooms took center stage at the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) conference in Chicago, with editors calling for better efforts to put women in top editing roles and grooming younger female journalists to eventually take the top spot.
The concerns about the decreasing numbers of female editors were heightened in May when New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was fired. Last week, the influential Nieman Reports -- a publication from Harvard University's Nieman Foundation For Journalism -- devoted an entire article to the subject, headlined, "Where are the Women?"
The Nieman report, by reporter Anna Griffin, stated:
The results of this gender disparity in leadership are especially pernicious in journalism. To best serve the public as watchdogs and truth-tellers, news organizations need a broad array of voices and perspectives. To thrive financially, they must appeal to an equally broad array of potential viewers, listeners, and readers. Plus, content analyses and anecdotal evidence suggest that a newsroom leader's gender can have a subtle but important influence on everything from what stories get covered and how, to who gets promoted and why.
Specifically, Griffin cited ASNE data released earlier this year that women serve as top editors in just three of the nation's 25 largest papers, eight of the 25 largest papers with circulations under 100,000, and three of the top 25 under 50,000. Abramson left the Times after the census was completed; her departure means that now none of the top ten daily papers have a woman at the helm and only two of the top 25.
Griffin also noted a 2014 Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) survey that said women comprise just 31 percent of TV news directors and 20 percent of general managers, "despite making up more than 40 percent of the TV workforce. The same survey found that women accounted for just 23 percent of radio news directors and 18 percent of general managers."
Such data did not sit well with attendees at the ASNE conference, both men and women, who called for improvements.
"You can look at the numbers, there aren't enough women [editors]," said Joyce Terhaar, editor of The Sacramento Bee. "But there aren't enough women in newsrooms."
Anders Gyllenhaal, Washington bureau chief for McClatchy, pointed out that 13 of his company's 29 newspapers are run by women. Still, he said the industry as a whole needs improvements, specifically grooming women better for the top roles.
"It's something you have to look at when you are choosing other editors," he said. "Clearly, there are not enough women editors in the high-profile positions and in the largest papers."
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Extensive reporting from the Associated Press on the Koch brothers' financial background and political influence glossed over the duo's ties to the fossil fuel industry and ignored their efforts to dismantle action on climate change.
On August 25, the Associated Press published a "primer on the Koch brothers and their role in politics," headlined "Koch 101," along with a lengthy overview of the history of the Koch family. A primer on the influence of Charles and David Koch is sorely needed: Their political organizations are reportedly expected to spend nearly $300 million during this year's election cycle, yet most Americans still haven't heard of the highly influential brothers.
The AP reported in its backgrounder that the Koch brothers are "reshaping politics with an uncompromising agenda." But when describing the their financial background in "Koch 101," the AP merely hinted at the Kochs' ties to the fossil fuel industry, stating that their company, Koch Industries, "makes a wide range of products including Dixie cups, chemicals, jet fuel, fertilizer, electronics, toilet paper and much more."
The longer article that accompanied it similarly downplays the Kochs' oil industry ties. The AP reported that Koch Industries "got its start building oil refineries" and now owns a range of businesses including "refining, consumer products, chemicals and electric components." The article also mentioned -- and promptly dismissed -- Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) criticism of the Koch brothers as "oil baron bullies," but it didn't expand on their connections to oil industry.
Neither report mentioned that the Koch brothers themselves receive a great portion of their vast wealth (together, they have more money than Bill Gates) from fossil fuel-related industries. The Koch brothers own 84 percent of the sales from Koch Industries, which operates 10 large firms, five of which have a stated purpose involving the manufacture, transport, refining, or trading of crude oil, petroleum, or natural gas. From a 2010 Greenpeace report on Koch Industries:
Koch operates crude oil gathering systems and pipelines across North America. Its Flint Hills Resources subsidiary owns refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas that process more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily. The company owns a 3% stake in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, 4,000 miles of oil and products pipelines in the US, and an 80,000 barrels-per day refinery in Rotterdam. In addition, Koch Industries has held multiple leases on the polluting tar sands of Alberta, Canada since the 1990s and the Koch Pipeline Company operates the pipelines that carry tar sands crude from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin where Koch's Flint Hill Resources owns oil refineries.
In addition, neither AP report mentioned that the Kochs are using their wealth to advocate for energy policies that would support the fossil fuel industry's bottom line, including that of Koch Industries.
The Koch brothers have been using their wealth to shape energy policy for years in the name of the free market and recently announced a new initiative focused on energy with "what looks like a deregulatory, pro-consumer spin," according to the Daily Beast. If their new energy initiative is anything like previous actions from their network, it will focus on defending tax breaks for fossil fuel industries while attacking renewable energy policies through bunk studies and media misinformation.
Also missing from both articles: The fact that the Koch brothers play a huge role in impeding action on climate change as major funders of anti-scientific global warming denial. The Kochs and their foundations have donated over $67 million to groups denying climate change, like the Heartland Institute, which recently held a climate denial conference featuring several speakers with financial ties to the Kochs.
The International Forum on Globalization (IFG), an alliance of scholars and activists, blamed the Koch brothers for creating "climate deadlock" in international negotiations on climate action, asserting "clear links between the Kochs' cash and today's US policy paralysis holding hostage any global deal" on climate change. The IFG detailed that the Kochs work to "kill US climate legislation" by funding climate denial and influencing elections and that they "polarize the climate policy debate in the US, making impossible any meaningful movement towards science-based emissions targets to enable an equitable global agreement."
For a potential "Koch 102," the AP should take note of the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity's description of Koch Industries and its political agenda:
Oil is the core of the Koch business empire, and the company's lobbyists and officials have successfully fought to preserve the industry's tax breaks and credits, and to defeat attempts by Congress to regulate greenhouse gases.
A misleading Associated Press (AP) headline sparked a storm of right-wing media accusations that former IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for audit, though records only show that Lerner asked an expert a legal question about an event invitation sent to Grassley and the subject of her inquiry was unclear.
Right-wing media jumped to parrot a June 25 AP headline that claimed newly released emails show "IRS Official Sought Audit of GOP Senator." The Drudge Report linked to the AP story with the claim "IRS Lerner Targeted GOP Senator," the Daily Caller argued that newly discovered emails from Lerner show "the former IRS Exempt Organizations director's attempt to audit GOP Sen. Chuck," and The Washington Times claimed that Lerner "tried to get her agency to conduct an audit" of Grassley. On the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said Lerner decided "I've got to target that guy, even though she didn't have any of the facts."
But as the actual AP article pointed out, the email exchange between Lerner and Giuliano does not support the claims forwarded in its own headline and by right-wing media. Lerner initially asked if an event organizer's offer to pay for Grassley's wife to attend an event warranted examination. Lerner mentioned the possibility that the offer was inappropriate but did not specify whether she was suggesting that Grassley should be examined:
Is this the one where we got the copy to Grassley? Did he get one to me? Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?
Giuliano was similarly focused on the event host. He noted that that the invitation from the group was not enough to warrant sending the issue to the IRS Exam Department, because Grassley had not yet accepted the invitation, and said the issue would only warrant further investigation if Grassley later failed to report the offer as income. In her response, Lerner didn't indicate interest in pursuing the issue further.
MSNBC's Steve Benen summarized the exchange:
Behold, yesterday's blockbuster that set the right's hair on fire. Lerner questioned whether a group had done something wrong, talked to a colleague, and then dropped the whole thing.
An Associated Press article about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations to cut carbon emissions failed to disclose that Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a source it cited criticizing the proposal, is a front group for the Koch brothers that routinely makes false attacks against clean energy initiatives.
A June 2 AP article reported that Colorado could serve as a model for reducing carbon emissions while handling its energy needs, following comments from the Obama Administration and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). The article cited Dustin Zvonek, the Colorado director of Americans for Prosperity, which the outlet described as a group "which warns the EPA's rules would cost billions and lead to higher energy costs," but failed to mention the organization's oil industry funding:
"There's still a lot to be clarified," said Dustin Zvonek, Colorado director of the group Americans For Prosperity, which warns the EPA's rules would cost billions and lead to higher energy costs. Zvonek said Colorado's action to cut carbon emissions may have only prompted an even lower bar to meet.
"Are we going to be penalized or punished for the fuel-switching standard and therefore take an even bigger hit? That's not clear," Zvonek said.
Among AFP's major supporters are brothers David and Charles Koch, their charitable foundations and their company, Koch Industries, Inc., which has significant operations in oil and gas exploration and coal supply and trading. A 2012 report by the International Forum on Globalization explained that the Koch brothers have used their wealth to attempt to block legislation or rules aimed at mitigating the damage climate change is causing.
Greenpeace reported that AFP has received nearly $6 million from Koch-affiliated groups from 2005-2011.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) ringing endorsement last week of Truvada, the "miracle drug" that blocks HIV infection, presents news outlets with a prime opportunity to cover an historic development in the three-decade struggle against HIV/AIDS. So far, however, media organizations have largely ignored the story.
Truvada is a 10-year-old pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment combining two different antiviral drugs. Taken daily, it prevents infection of HIV. Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug back in July 2012, it hasn't exactly caught on; a September 2013 report by Gilead Sciences found that only 1,774 people had filled Truvada prescriptions from January 2011 through March 2013. Nearly half of users were women, even though gay men are the demographic group most at risk for HIV/AIDS.
Part of the reason Truvada has been slow to gain steam is, undoubtedly, the stigma attached to those who use it. Gay men who use the drug have been derided as "Truvada Whores," a term many users have sought to reclaim. Some HIV/AIDS advocates, including Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, have cast doubt on Truvada's effectiveness, noting that it won't block infection unless users strictly adhere to taking it daily.
But advocates who hail Truvada as a watershed development in the struggle against HIV/AIDS got a huge boost on May 14, when the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report called on doctors to prescribe the pill for patients deemed at risk of HIV/AIDS - men who have sex with men, heterosexuals with at-risk partners, anyone whose partners they know are infected, and those who use drugs or share needles.
As The New York Times noted, if doctors follow the CDC's advice, Truvada prescriptions would increase to an estimated 500,000 annually.
On May 15, the Times gave the CDC's historic report prime placement on its front page:
But the Times and The Washington Post were the only major newspapers outlets to cover the CDC's report:
Two Media Matters analyses suggest that over 85 percent of those quoted in the media about climate change are men. Several top women in the field denounced this disparity, noting that women will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.
A review of a recent Media Matters analysis of print and television coverage of the U.N. climate reports found that women made up less than 15 percent of interviewees. A look back at our analysis of broadcast coverage of climate change unearthed the same stark disparity: less than 14 percent of those quoted on the nightly news shows and Sunday shows in 2013 were women.
Allison Chin, the former president of the Sierra Club, decried this gender gap in a statement to Media Matters:
The gender imbalance among those quoted on the climate crisis is striking, particularly since women around the world are more vulnerable to the dangers of climate disruption and among the most active in the movement for solutions. Globally, existing inequalities give women less access and less control over resources and make them more susceptible to the worst effects of extreme weather. The last thing the media should do is amplify that divide by only covering one set of perspectives.
Rebecca Lefton, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and an expert in international climate change policy and gender equality agreed, telling Media Matters that this is an environmental justice issue because "women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, especially in developing countries." Indeed, studies show, for instance, that women disproportionately suffer the impacts of extreme weather disasters, some of which are exacerbated by climate change, in part because they are more likely to be poor. Lefton added, "Without women's voices we lose the perspective of half of the population and without women's participation, the transition to a cleaner economy will be slower."
The lack of women's voices in climate change conversations in the media is not due to a shortage of powerful women in climate policy and communications. U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres, who is in charge of negotiating a global climate treaty, noted in March that "women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt." The last two heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is slated to come out with carbon pollution standards for future power plants, were both women -- current administrator Gina McCarthy and former administrator Lisa Jackson.
Media Matters has previously found that women make up only about a quarter of guests on the Sunday morning talk shows and weekday evening cable news segments on the economy. However, the gender gap on climate change conversations is even starker. One contributing factor may be that the climate sciences have experienced a "female brain drain," according to Scientific American, as have many other scientific fields. This "female brain drain" is also evident in the largely male leadership of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Women that do enter the field often face discrimination. Two prominent female climate scientists, Heidi Cullen and Katherine Hayhoe, have both been dismissed by Rush Limbaugh as "babe[s]." Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian who is one of the stars of a new Showtime series on climate change, told E&E News that much of the internet harassment she receives focuses on her gender:
The final installment of the U.N.'s top climate report, which calls for prompt, extensive action to avoid calamitous impacts from climate change, garnered relatively little attention from the major print, cable and broadcast media outlets compared to the first installment. However, coverage of the third report rightfully gave far less space to those who cast doubt on the science.
Today marked the seventh straight year that The Wall Street Journal has not won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. It also marks the seventh straight year the newspaper has been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Does one have anything to do with the other? Perhaps.
During my time at Editor & Publisher magazine from 1999 to 2010, I covered the Pulitzer Prizes each year, corresponding with members of the juries to determine who would win the awards and why.
Anyone who knows the Pulitzers can tell you it is a fierce competition. Failing to take home the prize in no way suggests one's reporting was unworthy.
But for the Journal, which has garnered dozens of the awards during its celebrated history, that stretch of failure cannot go unnoticed. In the history of the Pulitzers, only The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Associated Press have won more.
And during the past seven years as the Journal has remained winless, those four news outlets have won a combined 33 reporting Pulitzers.
While the newspaper has won two Pulitzers since Murdoch took over, they were for editorial writing and commentary. The heart and soul of any news operation, its reporters and photographers, have been repeatedly denied in the competition that remains the most prestigious award in journalism.
With today's winners ranging from The Tampa Bay Times to Reuters, the Journal's name is sorely missed by many, its staff likely as much as anyone.
A look at the Journal's history finds the paper's great journalism winning acclaim and top awards, all pre-Murdoch.
From its first reporting award in 1961 for uncovering problems in the timber industry to its last two in 2007 for digging into the scams of backdated stock options and the negative impact of China's growing capitalism the Journal had never gone more than five years without a win, with that stretch in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the five years before Murdoch's purchase, the paper won Pulitzers for public service and international reporting and two each for beat reporting and explanatory journalism.
The Pulitzer Prize is not the ultimate judgment of a newspaper. And many in the industry often criticize editors who appear to assign stories specifically with the goal winning a Pulitzer in mind.
But for a newspaper of the Journal's size and stature, such a long stretch may be a sign of its goals. Murdoch has reportedly made clear that he does not prioritize the kind of in-depth, long form journalism that often wins these awards.