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The AP's "New Distinctiveness" Memo Points to Increased Risk of Bias


From Accuracy in Media’s Logan Churchwell:

An internal memo penned by the Associated Press’ Managing Editor Mike Oreskes was leaked and featured on sites such as The Huffington Post and Gawker this morning. As an effort to keep up with the rapidly changing news cycle, Oreskes is now offering a new direction for the wire service.

(Source: Moonbattery/Media Mania)

The new plan of action is called “The New Distinctiveness.” But why the change? The AP defines the problem:

“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. Often it’s someone who has taken what we do (sometimes our reporting itself) and pushed it to the next level of content: journalism that’s more analytical, maybe a fresh and immediate entry point, a move away from text, a multimedia mashup or a different story form that speaks more directly to users.”

To face this challenge, Oreskes will be leading assignment editors and reporters to respond quicker, focus on story themes (dig deeper into the story), diversify communication methods and most important, report with “voice.”

This “reporting with voice” plank of the proposal should set off alarm bells. The full passage states (emphasis added):

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.”

The use of words like voice, context and interpretation are broad pathways to journalism with a point of view. Ask yourself, how does one report with “voice” while maintaining a “deep commitment to unbiased, fair journalism?” Will the AP weigh the use of “voice” on an ad hoc basis against fair reporting?

The greatest logical stretch in this memo lies with the idea that the Associated Press has always been unbiased up to now. There is a long history of proof otherwise.

Read the full memo.


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