AP's Fox faux pas
Early Monday morning, it became clear that the Associated Press had made a significant mistake in an article that, upon close examination, is hard to see as anything other than another example of the Fake News phenomenon that has come to characterize much MSM reporting of late.
The AP's original article, without an author byline, was titled "Fox News mistakenly posts graphic showing it lags in trust." (A cached version of the original AP article as published by the Chicago Tribune is currently here.) The story consisted of only five short paragraphs. It focused on a moment during the weekly news analysis program Media Buzz on the Fox News Channel on Sunday, during which the host, Howard Kurtz, was discussing fake news with his guest, pollster Frank Luntz. At one point early in the segment, a graphic came on the screen showing the results of a Monmouth University opinion poll that claimed that Fox News is the least trusted of the three major cable news channels. When the graphic appeared on screen, Kurtz quickly said, presumably addressing the control room, "That is not the graphic we are looking for. Hold off. Take that down, please."
The AP story ended there. The implication was that the wrong graphic – an embarrassment to Fox News – was inadvertently shown, at which point Kurtz ordered it to be taken down. The story failed to mention that the same graphic was shown again less than one minute later as Kurtz's discussion with Luntz evolved. The truth was that the graphic had not been suppressed at all.
Screen shot of the second use of the graphic on Media Buzz that the AP story implied had been pulled from the show at Kurtz's request.
Here is the entire segment, with the graphic appearing at the wrong moment and then being fully shown, via Grabien:
Mediaite's story about this event, titled "Howard Kurtz Torches the Associated Press For 'Dishonest Piece' on Fox News Graphic," also includes video of the segment of Sunday's Media Buzz.
At 10:34 A.M. EDT on Monday morning, Kurtz tweeted that moments earlier on his Facebook account he had "just called for the AP to issue a correction for an embarrassingly distorted story about my program, compounded by a failure to ask for comment." Kurtz's Facebook post is titled "A JOURNALISTIC DISTORTION" (emphasis original):
The Associated Press should be embarrassed by a story that utterly distorts what happened yesterday on my program "Media Buzz." And its dishonest piece was made worse by the fact that the wire service didn't bother to contact me or Fox News for comment.
Kurtz went on from there at some length to detail the abuse he believed he and his program had been subjected to by the AP, and at the end, he requested a "correction" from the news service.
At 12:23 P.M. EDT, Kurtz added an update to his tweet that the AP had run a correction.
For close observers, however, the story does not quite end there, as some serious questions remain. The "corrected" story, which replaced the original one, as it was posted at U.S. News, among hundreds or thousands of other AP client publications, was retitled "Fox News Host: Graphic Posted at Wrong Point of Show." The article was completely rewritten and it said at the end:
The Associated Press earlier reported that Kurtz ordered the graphic be taken down, but did not note that it was used again. This story has been corrected to show that the graphic was taken down because it was used during the wrong segment, and was used again on the show.
This turn of events is strange, however, because the premise of the now exposed as false story that the original AP article was based on had, by late Monday morning, totally evaporated. Would a TV news program's minor production error, on a channel other than Fox News, involving a graphic having been "posted at wrong point of show," merit a story by the AP in the first place? That is extremely doubtful. So why didn't the AP just retract its first article and issue an apology for its error – rather than sticking with an article, albeit one that was retitled and rewritten, that was not news? It's a good question that so far remains unanswered.
Howard Kurtz on Media Buzz, April 8, 2018.
As a footnote, on Monday at 1 P.M. EDT, a search at Google dot com for the AP article using its original title, which linked to the revised version of it at most major MSM sources, maintained as its cached version the original incorrect article.
The Associated Press, founded in 1846, is the largest news agency in the United States. It was formerly known as a wire service, having started in the era of the telegraph. Its stories are distributed widely to media outlets in the United States and around the world. At its website, the AP defines its "News Values and Principles":
We are The Associated Press. We have a long-standing role setting the industry standard for ethics in journalism. It is our job – more than ever before – to report the news accurately and honestly.