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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why would AP give Moon cover?

You may recall the "Moon jumps the shark" story below. The Moon organization will now pay a hefty fine for poaching a rare breed of the animal. But the real oddity is the way the story has been covered by Associated Press.

Here's how the AP piece originally read:
In a recording of a 2003 sermon, Thompson unabashedly told his congregation just how far he believed that dominion extended, boasting that members of what he called the "Ocean Church" had spent more than a decade catching and selling baby leopard sharks to pet stores.

"We want the smaller the better," Thompson said.

Thompson bragged that a fellow church member had one day discovered a leopard shark pupping ground in mud flats along the bay and had returned with more than 100 baby sharks. He said pet stores would pay $20 per shark and sell them for home aquariums for $75 each.

Moon himself became excited when he learned about the shark-catching operation, Thompson claimed in the sermon.

"He told me, you know you need 20 boats out there fishing," Thompson said. "He had this big plan drawn out."
And here is the rewritten version of the story which AP distributed later in the day:
Moon didn't know about Thompson's operation, said the Rev. Phillip Schanker, a spokesman for the church.
(Emphasis added.) Ummm...I thought the press agency owned by Moon was UPI. Was I wrong? A news story was revised to cover-up an admission of Moon's culpability. Now that's power.
NPR covered the story this morning, and there was no mention of Moon nor the Unification church. He has friends in high places pulling some hefty CYA.
This might be worth passing on to the boiler room at TMP, which has had something of feud with the AP.

Because that's **some** revision...
AP,the Associated Press, is nominally a cooperative news service. That's why it has nonprofit tax status, although today it clearly operates as a news company and not a cooperative of independent papers.

UPI is a for-profit news company last I heard still owned by Moon and/or the Uni Church.

Devil's advocate, I'd point out as a journalist that I understand the original version as a preacher's second-hand account of a parishioner who said Moon was there and did this and that. It puts Moon conspiring in something illegal, right? The source is a privileged source (the journalistic standard) only on what he himself witnessed, which is what he heard from a parishioner and nothing heard from Moon.

It is Moon's right to have his spokesman refute the facts and it is responsible for AP to report that. It probably would have been logical to use the two pieces TOGETHER, especially since the earlier already was sent (duh!), and let the reader decide who to believe.

But, strictly speaking, the first story did not meet professional standard. AP could be accused of libel, if the story weren't true and Moon weren't a public figure ... but he is a public figure and everything we do know about him gives reason to think he won't be able to argue it's false, known to be false and AP was malicious.

But, likewise, almost everything coming out of the White House press corps and most of AP today doesn't fit the purist's professional standard, so I too am suspect of AP's rationale here. AP and MSM in general have no qualms about using unsubstantiated oppo research accusing Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and now Sen. Barak Obama, and they shamelessly (!) use second-hand direct quotations PR people gather for them and such. Hell, Fox even promoted Carl Cameron TO the plumb White House beat after he completely fabricated John Kerry quotes and once a whole Kerry story. That tells you how much many MSM journalists care about those ethics when it's not a neocon demanding pure standards be applied when reporting on them.

Largely, though, I think it's not so much an MSM conspiracy to help the neocons as much as it is strangled newsrooms promoting inexperienced journalists because they work more cheaply and longer hours than those of us who earned our way up with quality work. And, I see it, the reporters who are willing to hate the so-called liberals are favored by the corporate bosses and go further. It's human nature at a subconscious level for Pavlov's dogs to respond to what gives the rewards.
I'm just now looking at your links to each full version that you call before and after.

But, these are two different news sources' use of AP material. You can't assume the editing in the "after" wasn't done by the station. It would be unusual for AP to have resent such a stunted version in a write-thru. I deal with AP copy daily. Still, the story leaves a lot to be desired.
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