May 19, 2012

UPDATE: AP National Site Headline on Trayvon Martin Case Evidence Goes From ‘Huge Gaps’ to ‘Questions Nag,’ But ‘Huges Gaps’ Version Persists

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 11:00 pm

Update: An AP official has responded to this post. That response, and my reply, are here.

Note: A sentence which erroneously reported the Eastern Time Zone equivalent of a story at the Kansas City Star has been removed. 

The Associated Press appears to have done something unusual in its coverage of the the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case on Monday. Two identically worded stories with differing headlines are still at the AP’s national site.

It is more than a little odd that the story with the earlier headline (“Cache of evidence in shooting, still huge gaps”) is still present. The headline grossly mischaracterizes the nature of the publicly released data. The same story with a different and more accurate headline (“Amid evidence cache in Martin case, questions nag”) is also still there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this happen at AP, especially not for over 24 hours (the time stamps on the two stories are both late Friday afternoon). Graphics with the two examples follow the jump.

Here’s the earlier version, (with the URL “http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/N/NEIGHBORHOOD_WATCH?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT”):

APonTrayvonMartin051812at444pm

Now the later version (with the URL “http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_NEIGHBORHOOD_WATCH?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT”):

APonTrayvonMartin051812at517pm

So why are two otherwise identical stories with different headlines still present at the wire service’s national site? My theory: By changing the URL of the second story, AP made the old story with the distortion-driven headline less likely to be replaced at subscribing outlets on Friday evening, meaning that that a lot more print editions probably carried the “Huge Gaps” headline in their Saturday editions than would have been the case if the wire service had done what it usually does, which is to revise stories, make no change to their URLs, and effectively flush older versions down the memory hole.

The “huge gaps” headline’s continued existence is pretty convenient for those who desperately want to keep portraying Trayvon Martin as an innocent, harmless victim while continuing to fan racial animosities. Based on what they have seen during the past week or so, many who are closely following the case, including well-known lawyer Alan Dershowitz, believe that the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman should be dropped

If there’s a better explanation for what AP has done, I’d like to see it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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6 Comments

  1. Mr. Blumer,

    The motives you ascribe to the AP in the case of the two headlines and stories are ridiculous.

    The earlier version (“Cache of evidence in shooting, still huge gaps”) was revised to clarify which shooting was being referenced.
     
    Furthermore, not all AP stories update automatically online among the thousands of websites and other outlets that carry AP news.

    I trust you will also transport this clarification to the version of your column that appears on Newsbusters. Thank you.

    Paul Colford
    Director of AP Media Relations

    Comment by Paul Colford — May 20, 2012 @ 9:18 am

  2. [...] night (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), yours truly questioned how the Associated Press could have two identically worded stories with [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — May 20, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

  3. Mr. Colford:

    Thank you for your comment. Though it is non-responsive, I have nonetheless created additional NewsBusters and BizzyBlog posts which carry it.

    Unfortunately, your comment “clarifies” nothing.

    Every one of the 1,547 words in each story is the same. Just to be absolutely sure, I copied the text of each into separate MS Word documents at about 10:00 a.m. Word “found no differences between the documents.” So where is this “revision” to which you refer?

    Or, if I am to understand that the “huge gaps”-headlined story was revised to become identical to the “questions nag” story, why didn’t the “huge gaps” version go away?

    The fundamental question remains: Why are two identical stories, one with a headline which clearly mischaracterizes the Martin-Zimmerman situation, and another which doesn’t, still up at the AP’s national site with different URLs?

    Further, your point that “not all AP stories update automatically online among the thousands of websites and other outlets that carry AP news” references the substance of my theory, which was clearly presented as a theory.

    The “revised” story (“questions nag”) has a different URL from the “huge gaps” story, meaning that, as I understand the mechanics, it won’t ordinarily update the “huge gaps” stories already posted. This would seem to mean that there are more “huge gaps” stories hanging around at the web sites of subscribing AP NewsBusters.org outlets than would ordinarily be the case.

    Ordinarily, when I do a Google News search on an AP story using an older headline and click on the link, I will often (not always, but quite often) be taken to one with an updated headline (and updated content, if applicable). This morning at about 10 a.m., I tested the first twenty of the “huge gaps” headlines as listed in this Google News search on that headline (in quotes, sorted by date with duplicates). The headlines at all but one link were unchanged. Only one “questions nag” headline was located in this effort.

    I ascribed no motive to AP. That would have been ridiculous. But I didn’t, so it’s not. I noted that “The ‘huge gaps’ headline’s continued existence is pretty convenient for those who desperately want to keep portraying Trayvon Martin as an innocent, harmless victim while continuing to fan racial animosities.” I did not say that AP was among them. I resent your careless or deliberate misreading of that very clear statement.

    At the end of my original post, I wrote: “If there’s a better explanation for what AP has done, I’d like to see it.” That statement referenced what was from all appearances AP’s unusual retention of identical but differently headlined stories at its national site. You have not provided a better explanation.

    Comment by Tom — May 20, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  4. [...] was “a growing case of “thin-skin syndrome,” which references last week’s BizzyBlog comment by an AP media relations person and my response to [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — May 24, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  5. Regardless of the motives of the AP staff, one only has to read their stories to see the decline of the journalist work ethic. Opinion and bias stories certainly have their place but trying to sneek those in as straight news is unethical. News flash ap: the reading public isn’t as stupid as you treat them.

    Comment by wodun — May 24, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

  6. [...] a sign that someone is getting touchy, an AP media relations official on Sunday alleged in a comment at my home blog that I “ascribe(d) motives” that were [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — May 26, 2012 @ 8:06 am

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