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Now "We Credit Blogs we Know" - AP Part II

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--My own correction to an error... for some reason I thought Mr. Jack Stokes was the ombudsman, he is AP's Director of Media Relations. Sorry for the confusion, still trying to locate the big O. For some reason I thought we had, but now I realize that Mr. Stokes is in fact with the HQ media relations office. In any case, for what it is worth, the story is accurate, just the title of the person was in error. ---

Following up on my blog post regarding the AP, in which I discussed their rather less than ethical sourcing policies, John Byrne at Raw has written an article providing more details about the AP's problem sourcing.

Here are some parts of John's article on this:


Getting the Article, Using the Article's Research, False Attribution (or a day in the office)

The Associated Press has confirmed using a Raw Story report as the basis for a Mar. 14 article detailing a change to national security clearance policies but has refused to issue credit for the piece.

Their article, "Security Clearance Rules May Impede Gays," signaled an apparent Bush Administration attempt to tighten security clearances with regard to gay Americans. It attributed the discovery of the clearance changes to gay rights groups - a factually inaccurate statement which the agency has refused to correct. The discovery was made by Larisa Alexandrovna, Raw Story's Managing News Editor, and John Byrne, Raw Story's Executive Editor.

Two gay rights groups, Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network, confirmed they had used Raw Story's article and notes distributed by Raw Story as the basis of their conversations with the AP reporter. The AP later admitted they had learned of the change from the Raw Story article.

Ah grasshopper, but you see, it is not that they noticed a story and followed up on it, they had the article in hand and my notes on top of that it seems.

The AP later admitted they had learned of the change from the Raw Story article. Raw Story's article, along with notes intended to help groups speak to its contents, was sent to gay groups by Michael Rogers, a gay activist who runs PageOneQ.com.

In response to inquiries about the errant wording - "lesbian and gay advocacy groups recently found the change" - AP's Director of Media Relations Jack Stokes has said the language had been carefully worded. The AP disputes Raw Story's claim that their report was inaccurate.

I am sorry, how does saying the language was worded carefully address the issue that they sourced this to the groups who gave them the notes and article? That is beside the point, however, because now we notified them as did the gay rights groups. So they would no doubt correct the error, yes? No!

Raw Story had requested a correction from the AP late last week. Katherine Shrader, the AP national security correspondent who authored the article, told us she had spoken with her editor and that no correction would be made.

"I've talked it over with our bureau chief and we're not going to be doing that," Shrader said.

In a return call, Shrader refused to talk further and referred calls to AP's corporate communications office.

Raw Story then spoke with Jack Stokes, AP's Director of Media Relations. Stokes took careful notes regarding our concerns and said he would investigate our claims. He found that the AP had, indeed, gotten our article from "human rights groups" but that it was AP policy not to credit blogs.

"It does turn out that we don't give mentions to blogs when we're researching our stories and when we've been given material by others such as in this case human rights groups that brought this stuff to us that we independently check," Stokes said in a voicemail message.

Do'h, did he say that on a recorded message? Hmmm, next time wait for a live person to pick up the phone if you plan on slanting things later. In several conversations following that recording, "we do not credit blogs" would be stated with more gusto even.

See if you can now spot the flip-flop:

Stokes elaborated Tuesday, saying the AP does give credit to blogs. He said the reason Raw Story wasn't credited in the Mar. 14 article was because the bureau "hadn't heard of" Raw Story, and because they had received the article from third-party groups. He said the agency would be issuing a statement, most likely later today.

"We do credit blogs that we know," Stokes said. "We had no idea who you were."

Ah, I see, we don't know you, but your work is good enough for us and we don't know you, so we cannot credit you, sounds rational, right? But wait, do they really not know us at all? Let's examine the idea for shits and giggles:

Raw Story has previously received credit from The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, Roll Call, The Hill, The Salt Lake Tribune, MSNBC and Rolling Stone...

So I guess it depends on the day. But it could just be our word, the voice mail, the later conversations against their soon to be issued press release, right?

Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network confirmed they had given Raw Story's original article to the AP reporter. Human Rights Campaign said they had briefed their director on the story from the original Raw Story report. Neither group mentioned Raw Story in their press releases - which Stokes said may have affected how AP handled the story.

Raw Story did receive credit for the story in the Washington Blade, D.C.'s leading gay newspaper.

Okay, so let's give AP the benefit and say that the press release confused them, but are they still confused even now? Well, it seems so because they are not going to correct the record.


Plagiarism (or a day in the office)

So they get an article and even the notes of the research for that article handed to them. Mind you, the notes have a table outlining each change of wording, the research of which was based on two separate documents examined side by side. (I know people have emailed me to ask why I did not use one of those merge programs and all I can say is "huh?" to indicate just how tech savvy I am.)

So what does the AP choose to cover out of all of the differences between the two documents? Well, it seems the same thing we chose to focus on.

In our article, we also identified that the Administration had changed language with regard to issuing clearances to gays.

Whereas an earlier copy of the clearance policy declared that sexual orientation "may not be used" as a basis for disqualifying applicants, Hadley's revisions declared that clearances cannot be denied "solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual."

Wrote AP: "The Bush administration said security clearances cannot be denied 'solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual.' But it removed language saying sexual orientation 'may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person's eligibility for a security clearance.'"

If you go line by line, there are plenty of subtle changes, we simply chose to focus on a few and it appears the AP chose the same few to focus on, changing the language a bit to seem original.

Take both articles and read them and take both documents and compare them for yourself. Add to that they did the article because I did the article to begin with, but instead of doing a follow up piece, they simply wrote it as an original piece. All together this simply is not acceptable and to add insult to injury, they still will not correct the record.

You can again, find both sets of documents in my original article:
http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/U.S._quietly_tightens_access_to_classified_0313.html

We have gotten loads of email from writers, bloggers, freelance journos, you name it, all having a similar story and not just about the AP. So there is clearly a problem and given how big the problem is, it really needs to be addressed. What we got "0" of was an attorney willing to take the case.

One more thing, John is far too restrained (which is probably why people like him), where I think there should be massive yelling (which is probably why most people don't like me). Perhaps he is not reacting enough and I am reacting too much. I leave that last point for you to decide.

Good night and good luck getting attribution!