Missed this analysis by James Taranto in June. He notes that the Associated Press is encouraging something called “accountability journalism”:
Poynter.org reprints an article from Essentials, the Associated Press’s internal newsletter, which begins with an editor’s note explaining that the AP has embraced something called “accountability journalism,” whose goal is “to report whether government officials are doing the job for which they were elected and keeping the promises they make.”
Ron Fournier, whose byline frequently turns up on the AP’s “news analyses,” insists that such journalism is neither opinionated nor biased:
We can be provocative without being partisan. We can be truth-tellers without being editorial writers. We can and we must not only tell people what happened in politics today, but why it happened; what it might mean for our readers and their families; and what it might reveal about the people who presume to be our leaders. Sometimes, they’re just plain wrong.
Fournier is especially proud of the AP’s Katrina coverage–but the examples he cites seem opinionated and partisan to us. Here’s the lead paragraph of a Sept. 2, 2005, dispatch:
WASHINGTON (AP)–The Iraqi insurgency is in its last throes. The economy is booming. Anybody who leaks a CIA agent’s identity will be fired. Add another piece of White House rhetoric that doesn’t match the public’s view of reality: Help is on the way, Gulf Coast.
In just one paragraph, the “reporter” manages to endorse partisan views not just of Katrina but also of Iraq, the economy and even the Valerie Plame kerfuffle–and to describe what surely are his own opinions as “the public’s view.”
Good point. The problem with “accountability journalism” is the values to whom you hold people accountable. One man’s truth is another man’s propaganda. This AP movement looks like it’s swaying toward advocacy — which is OK, but let’s just call it was it is. We shouldn’t practice this type of reporting and hide behind the cloak of objectivity.
By the way, Jules Crittendon does a lot of great AP crap detecting. Here’s a particularly good post.