The Associated Press proves all its detractors right

True story: one day, a few years ago, I was sitting on a beach when I noticed the sea started going out. It kept going out. In fact the sea, which had been practically lapping at my feet a few minutes before, disappeared almost to the horizon.

I’m an educated chap and, in hindsight, I really should have known what I was looking at. But I didn’t. It was only my second day at that beach resort and I have been to one other place (Hayman Island near Australia’s Barrier Reef) where the tide does move the sea many hundreds of meters a day.

That was December 26, 2004 at 11 am on the west coast of Sri Lanka and what followed was an unprecedented series of waves that killed hundreds of thousands of people all around me. Fortunately the hotel staff had a call from a sister hotel down the coast and got all the guests and staff upstairs to safety.

When longtime Associated Press correspondent, Matti Friedman, wrote his first expose of the systematic and endemic bias at the AP in Jerusalem, I said “A Media Earthquake Started”. It was a giant earthquake that set off the Boxing Day tsunami that washed away my holiday; and likewise the AP should have been extra careful after Matti’s exposé. Well I guess they aren’t paying enough attention.

Yahoo AP Israeli Police Shoot landscape

Last night, after an Arab terrorist deliberately crashed into a crowd of people, maiming many and murdering a baby, the AP rushed into action with the following astonishing headline:

“Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem”

They had all the relevant details direct from the Israeli police in the first four paragraphs of the story. It was absolutely crystal clear right from their first report what had happened.

That headline has been rightly jumped on by social media and commentators. But it’s still on display on many sites who take an AP feed and just republish everything. Some sites may eventually change the headline (it’s settled on “Palestinian kills baby at Jerusalem station”) but many (especially some like the Lebanese Daily Star) never will. Many other places wrote atrociously slanted stories too, but the AP’s story is repeated ad nauseam across the world.

This is a major disaster for the AP. This is absolute proof that their reporting in Israel is not fit for widespread distribution. All over the web people are angrily condemning Yahoo! because that was the first place they saw this headline.

Very few people understand how the news agencies work. As I explained in an earlier post, these examples of malicious bias make news sites which run AP stories look bad. Yahoo!’s brand will be damaged. Yahoo! is the biggest site on the internet regularly publishing an un-edited version of the AP’s news wire.

If I was the CEO of Yahoo! I’d be considering very carefully whether to continue publishing AP’s Middle East stories without checking them. And that’s destroys the point of paying AP: honest and fair news outlets can not rely on AP to produce a straight Israel story. They will need to expend editorial energy checking every headline and every paragraph.

Buying and publishing stories from The Associated Press is not a wise investment.

About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.