The Associated Press's Stinky 'New Distinctiveness'

Just in time for the 2012 elections, the Associated Press, which yours truly has taken to calling the Administration’s Press, has consciously decided to inject even more left-wing bias into its reports.


A leaked memo published on December 13 by a sympathetic Michael Calderone (so sympathetic that he got out the heavy-duty Huffington Post shovel for his opening sentence: “The Associated Press has been getting it first and getting it right for the past 165 years”) described something called “The New Distinctiveness.”

Don’t fall asleep, folks. When you read the memo’s text, and just a bit between the lines, what you find is a justification for and formulation of a new form of agenda journalism from the people whose only job should be relaying the facts, something they have been doing progressively (pun intended) more poorly in recent years:

AP wins when news breaks, but after an hour or two we’re often replaced by a piece of content from someone else who has executed something more thoughtful or more innovative.

Gee guys, do you really think you’re done collecting facts after an hour or two? Let other folks “think” and be “innovative.” As soon as you have more, better, and clearer facts, they’ll have to update. If you stop gathering facts, which you do all too often already, readers’ eyes will move elsewhere, with no motivation to return.

Despite the lip service to “digging deeper” appearing several paragraphs later, the big strategic enchilada in the memo has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with spin:


Journalism With Voice. We’re going to be pushing hard on journalism with voice, with context, with more interpretation. This does not mean that we’re sacrificing any of our deep commitment to unbiased, fair journalism. It does not mean that we’re venturing into opinion, either. It does mean that we need to be looking for ways to be more distinctive and stand out in the field — something our customers need and want. The why and the how of the news are as crucial as the who, what, when and where.

Here I thought “Journalism With Voice” referred to TV and radio broadcasts.

A day later, Logan Churchwell at Accuracy in Media wondered: “[H]ow does one report with ‘voice’ while maintaining a ‘deep commitment to unbiased, fair journalism?'” I did too. The answer is: You can’t.

Though AP’s implementation appears to be in its early stages, Churchwell thinks he has seen a bit of the future of the New Distinctiveness. Justifiably, he doesn’t like it one bit. He cites with examples a clear three-step “playbook” the wire service is already using to frame GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney for the general election, well before the primaries have even been decided:

  1. “Paint Romney as filthy rich; like his daddy before him.” It appears to be an AP requirement that Romney be serially cited as a “multimillionaire” (so is Barack Obama, guys, as well as a large plurality in the House and a majority in the Senate), and that references to his father, who passed away sixteen years ago and was mostly out of the public eye for two decades before that, must remind people of how rich he was, even though in his heyday George Romney’s company with its thrifty line of compact Rambler cars made the cover of Time, where he was dubbed a “folk hero.”
  2. “Suggest to readers that either Romney is too smart, or Republicans are too dumb to understand him.” Because after all, only dumb people bitterly clinging to guns and religion could possibly vote Republican, and anyone who went to an Ivy League school must be beyond their pathetic ability to understand.
  3. “Always remind the reader that he’s a Mormon.” Pretty interesting, given that there seems to be a hard-and-fast rule at AP and in the rest of the establishment press that you cannot ever mention the Obamas’ nearly 20-year affiliation with the church run by the overtly racist Jeremiah “God D*mn America” Wright, or the fact that the Obamas have rarely attended church since they arrived in Washington.

The AP shouldn’t even think about doing “Journalism With Voice” — which if used at all should be carried out as a separate, clearly labeled enterprise — until it does a passable job of clearly reporting the facts without seeming to bow to the Obama administration’s wish not to see anything particularly negative, or to political correctness in general.

Just a few of many odious examples from the past two weeks:

  • An unbylined report on January 5 gave readers who didn’t get to the fourth of five paragraphs the impression that the administration’s summer jobs initiative will involve 180,000 paid positions. Even then, it only told us that “many” will be unpaid. How many? Try 110,000.
  • On December 30, Korea bureau director Jean H. Lee might as well have been auditioning to be the North’s next propaganda minister, as she effusively marveled at the omnipresence of pictures of the recently deceased Kim Jong Il throughout the countryside. Lee never called him anything worse than a “leader.” Attempting in what was supposed to be a straight news report to outdo Michael Moore’s disgraceful reference to happy kids flying kites in Iraq under mass murderer Saddam Hussein in Fahrenheit 911, Lee wrote of how “young men in bumper cars bash each other gleefully at an amusement park that Kim ordered renovated as part of a bid to ‘improve the people’s daily lives.'” Gosh, if only he had lived longer.
  • Concerning signing statements, those heinous things presidential candidate Obama promised he would not use, a December 28 report by Jim Kuhnhenn told readers that Obama only said he would make them “more transparent,” while a December 31 report by Julie Pace “cleverly” avoided using the term “signing statement” until the fifth paragraph. Earlier, she only referred to “a statement accompanying his signature.”

Guys, how about getting the stench out of your stinky everyday reports first before getting adventurous? Oh, I forgot; you’ve got a president to get reelected.


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