Most readers here aren’t aware that Associated Press reporters began withholding their bylines this week in support of their union’s “quality journalism proposals.” Participating reporters are refusing to have their name placed on AP stories. It appears to apply to stories datelined in the U.S. and not overseas (as seen here).
It is truly a wonder that the world has gone on while AP reporters refuse to tell us who wrote the wire service’s U.S. stories (/sarc).
The byline strike springs from the wire service’s refusal, according to the News Media Guild, the union which represents AP newsroom personnel, to accept a “fixed-cost pension plan.” The AP wants a defined-contribution plan (i.e., something similar or identical to a 401(k)).
Here are some economy, business, and political “gems” appearing at AP during the past few days which can’t be traced to a specific reporter:
March 18, 11:33 a.m. version, “Why inflation hurts more than it did 30 years ago” — the writer asserts that “Social Security recipients have gone two straight years with no increase in benefits.” Well, yeah. That’s because they got a 5.8% increase late 2008 for 2009, because the calculations were based on Consumer Price Index values reflecting sky-high energy costs. The costs came down, but Social Security benefits didn’t. They may not like hearing it, but beneficiaries got artificially high payments during 2009 (to a large extent) and 2010 (to a lesser extent). The jury is out on 2011, as the year has just begun, but in the past two years Social Security recipients and a large percentage of federal, state, and local government workers have been among the relatively few to get benefits and wage payments, respectively, exceeding inflation.
March 18, 3:19 p.m. version, “Activist O’Keefe won’t be videotaped himself” — You would think from the headline that O’Keefe never wants to be videotaped. There was only one incident in question, on Thursday in New Jersey. Somehow we’re supposed to think it’s hypocritical of O’Keefe to make such a decision. The AP reporter involved is either unaware or not at all bothered that this past weekend the Gridiron Club refused to let CSPAN tape the annual dinner held with the President and hundreds of journalists.
March 16, 6:20 p.m. version, “New-home construction plunges in February” — Though the report was about as gloomy as it needed to be, as usual (and to be fair, this is a pervasive problem in the business press), the AP writer stuck to reporting on seasonally adjusted annualized numbers from the Census Bureau and ignored the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) monthly data. As noted here, February’s on-the-ground total of 32,700 was the the lowest for any February in over 50 years of recordkeeping, and the second lowest for any month ever. The 35,900 building permits issued was the lowest for any recorded month ever, lower than January’s 36,000, which was the previous record low.
March 17, 4:32 p.a. version, from the cheerleading section — “Strong economic data points to more hiring.” Key sentence: “Economic data released Thursday suggest that March will be the second straight month of strong job growth.” First, the data isn’t that clear cut (unemployment claims came in at a seasonally adjusted 385,000, while the prior week was revised upward to 401,000), and second, we’re only halfway through the month, making it way too early to break out the pom-poms.
March 17, 1:34 p.m. version, “Consumer prices rise 0.5 pct., most since June ’09 — The reporter reassured us “economists said there is little sign that price increases outside of food and energy will get out of hand,” and quoted one person to support that assertion, with no rebuttal. Meanwhile, over at the more measured Wall Street Journal, Kathleen Madigan wrote that “Price increases have already spread beyond gas and food.”
March 16, 1:54 p.m. version, “Republicans say new consumer bureau too powerful” — Once again, in reporting that “GOP lawmakers also challenged the bureau’s role in a push by federal agencies and the 50 state attorneys general to force five large U.S. banks to agree to make it easier for struggling homeowners to avoid foreclosure and rework their mortgages,” the AP’s reporter failed to identify the shakedown — er, amount — involved. It’s about $20 billion. Readers would be interested in knowing that.
One can clearly see that even as they withhold their bylines, AP reporters aren’t withholding their bias and ignorance.
Certain of AP’s reporters may see the byline withholding effort as a nice thing to hide behind for the time being, and may be relishing not having their names associated with their dreadful work. For that reason, perhaps the impasse will last a while. We shall see.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.