May 27, 2007

Does the AP Monitor Powerline? MN DWI Story’s Change Makes It Appear So

May 28 Note: See the Update below, which notes different timing, but no change to the fundamental premise of this post.

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That there has been no love lost between the Associated Press and leading center-right blog Powerline for quite some time is not exactly a secret. The mutual distaste goes back at least as far as the 2004 presidential campaign, when Powerline caught AP reporter Scott Lindlaw telling others that his “mission” was to see that George Bush would not be reelected, and exposed the AP’s Jennifer Loven’s conflict of interest in reporting environmental stories while her husband was the Kerry campaign’s environmental consultant.

So what happened when John Hinderaker at Powerline exposed yet another in a long line of stories about politicians’ misdeeds that “somehow” didn’t mention the offender’s party is fascinating indeed.

The original story on the DWI arrest of State Senate President James Metzen made no mention of his party affiliation. Its fifth paragraph read as follows (link is to abbreviated story; the original referred to by Powerline and Drudge was later revised; this ABC story has the original fifth paragraph but a revised sixth that indicates party affiliation):

Metzen, 61, a seven-term senator from South St. Paul, told officers he had three or four drinks, (South St. Paul Police Chief Michael) Messerich said.

It is virtually impossible that Bakst did not know that party James Metzen is a member of Democratic Farm Labor, the Gopher’s State’s version of the Democrats, when he wrote his original story on May 22. After all, Metzen isn’t just another state politician, he’s the President of the Senate. I confirmed in a phone call to AP’s St. Paul office that was forwarded to its Minneapolis office that Bakst indeed works out of the St. Paul office. Additionally, Bakst appears to cover Minnesota state politics regularly — so regularly that Larry Schumacher, a reporter and blogger for the St. Cloud Times, refers to Bakst in a blog post as a “Fellow Capitol basement dweller” (at second paragraph of second post at link).

Powerline’s post noting Metzen’s lack of party identification (“How to Read the AP”) went up at 11:23 a.m. Central Time on May 23.

There is an updated report stamped 1:12 p.m. Eastern Time that same day (i.e., less than an hour later; the same time stamp is on the report at other sites). At that report, Bakst changed the fifth paragraph to read:

Metzen, 61, a seven-term Democratic senator from South St. Paul, told officers he had three or four drinks, Messerich said.

Even if this isn’t the first update where Metzen’s party ID was noted, what took Bakst so long to indicate what he obviously knew? And if the 1:12 p.m. update really is the first appearance of Metzen’s party ID, did Bakst and AP have to be goaded by their adversary into reporting what they should have told readers in the first place?

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UPDATE, May 28: I was informed of two additional developments that adjust the timing of the Powerline post and the related AP report, but still leave the question open as to what caused Bakst/AP to add Metzen’s party ID.

First, I was informed by Noel at NewsBusters that Bakst did update the Metzen story’s sixth paragraph at 7:46 a.m. on May 23 (“Metzen, a Democrat, didn’t immediately return a call.”)

Separately, and without knowledge of what I just noted, Scott Johnson at Powerline commented on the NewsBusters post yesterday evening, and added the following previously not-known information:

FOOTNOTE: I should add that our post misstates the author and the time it was posted. I originally posted the item before I left for work on May 23. I think it was the last item posted before our site crashed later that morning. Our tech genius Joe Malchow rebuilt our site with the result that the posting information is now off, although the text is accurate. I add this note only because Blumer’s post uses the inaccurate posting information and accordingly tends, I believe, to understate his point.

Actually, Scott’s information restores the point to its original place, depending on exactly when his original post went up on May 23. If it went up a little bit before 6:46 a.m. Central Time (7:46 a.m. Eastern), it remains an open question, as was the case with the timing as I originally understood it, as to whether Bakst’s/AP’s party-ID update was spontaneous, or whether it occurred in response to Powerline’s post.

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Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, May 29: Ken Shepherd updated at the NewsBusters post in response to an e-mail from AP:

Update (Ken Shepherd | May 29 | 14:35 EDT):

AP’s Minnesota news editor sent the following note to NewsBusters two hours ago:

I’m writing to respond to accusations of bias in AP’s handling last week of the arrest of Minnesota Senate President James Metzen.

The suggestion that AP intentionally omitted Metzen’s party affiliation _ he is a Democrat _ is incorrect.

Metzen’s party ID _ as DFL _ was included in the original story that moved on Minnesota state wires May 22, and in four updates of the story.

The first version that moved on national wires May 22 also included Metzen’s party affiliation, listed as Democrat. A second version that moved at 2:26 a.m. on May 23 DID drop the affiliation. It appears that happened when an editor inserted comment from Metzen’s attorney for the paragraph that had included Metzen’s party ID.

When the missing party ID was brought to AP’s attention, a new version was promptly transmitted to restore it.

Doug Glass
Minnesota News Editor
Associated Press

Two points:

  • How convenient.
  • Even if we buy into the accident scenario, Glass doesn’t say how the “missing party ID was brought to AP’s attention” — i.e., it could have been AP reading Powerline, or it could have been a Powerline reader calling AP, or it could have been anyone other human being on the planet.

The two questions at the end of the original portion of this post still stand.

Old Media Roadmap: Stories on the Environment Can Reveal Truth about the US Economy

Readers rarely get the truth about the US economy’s performance from Old Media business reporters without having to sift through a litany of “yeah, buts” and “what ifs” designed to water down anything that might make the Bush economy appear successful. But if you look hard enough, you sometimes stumble across stories in other areas that indicate how things really are.

Stories on the environment are good candidates for finding economic truth, because the writer has to establish that continued economic growth without what the writer believes are appropriate environmental constraints is a bad thing. That means that the writer has to somehow acknowledge that economic growth exists.

Such is the case in a story buried on Page A14 of Thursday’s Washington Post about lower CO2 emissions in the US last year (you read that right). In it, writer Juliet Eilperin let the reality of how the economy is performing slip in (bold is mine):

U.S. Carbon Emissions Fell 1.3% in 2006

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO2 emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in both 2001 and 1991, in large part because of economic slowdowns during those years.

Whoa.

At what other time has the Post informed its readers that the economy is “thriving”? Answer: Other than the above, not once in the last 60 days; none of the links found at the Post in a search on “economy thriving” (without quotes) refer to the US economy’s performance.

Returning to form, Eilperin, after using the first four paragraphs to the hard news, gave the next two to an industry “more needs to be done” spokesman, and the final four to critical Democrats and environmentalists, including this sky-is-falling quote from Senator John Kerry:

“This is more proof that this President just doesn’t get it when it comes to combating climate change,” Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday. “The house is on fire, and he’s trying to douse the flames with a watering can. The science tells us that we need to reduce our emissions by 60-80% by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic damage.”

The news was carried in a brief blurb found on Page A20 in Thursday’s New York Times. The item (may require free registration) helpfully reminded readers that “The United States remains the leading source of the carbon dioxide, the main emission linked to global warming.” But according to this March 23 Reuters report, obviously written well before the just-announced reduction in US emissions during 2006, China “is on course to overtake the United States this year as the world’s biggest carbon emitter.” The latest news from the administration would appear to make China’s ascendancy to Number One in carbon emissions this year a certainty.

It should be noted that the need to reduce CO2 emission is anything but “settled science” — at least until someone refutes Fred Singer (described at the link as “an atmospheric physicist at George Mason University and founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, a think tank on climate and environmental issues”). Singer maintains that satellite temperature readings show that the earth is cooling not warming, and believes, with good reason, that “climate science is on its way to becoming pathological, to becoming abnormal in the sense that it is being guided by the money that’s being made available to people.”

Getting back to Old Media coverage — Try to imagine an administration of the other party announcing actual nationwide reductions in carbon emissions and seeing the news buried in the Post and the Times. No, neither can I.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Tequesta (FL) diver named ‘Real Hero’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:59 am

From Tequesta, Florida:

Tequesta diver named ‘Real Hero’ for saving buddy off Juno
May 20, 2007

A Tequesta man’s quick thinking during a dive in November not only saved his buddy’s life but earned him an American Red Cross Palm Beach Area Chapter “Real Heroes Marine Rescue Award” at a breakfast Wednesday in West Palm Beach.

Michael Syler, 19, was nominated for the award by the Tequesta Fire-Rescue Department because of his lifesaving efforts while scuba diving off a local dive charter boat.

Both Syler and Kyle Connelly, 21, were diving together in 95 feet of water on a reef east of Juno Beach when Connelly signaled to Syler that he was running low on air. Syler swam to Connelly’s side, and moments later Connelly indicated he had run out of air, so Syler offered his backup regulator to Syler.

Both divers made a rapid ascent to the surface, but when they reached 30 feet below the water, Syler’s pressure gauge registered zero and Connelly was now unconscious. Syler rushed his diving buddy to the surface, signaled the dive boat while he kept Connelly’s head above water and began rescue breathing. Connelly began to breath, but remained unconscious and didn’t come around until after the dive boat pulled them aboard, and he was given oxygen.

Go here for the rest of the story.