Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Selective Editing

Talking Points Memo and AMERICAblog catches the Associated Press in a bit of editing to make the Harry Reid/boxing tickets kerfuffle appear to be more nefarious.

Here’s the first version of a part of the story, and note the end of the first paragraph in the citation:

Reid, D-Nev., took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada’s agency feared might usurp its authority.

He defended the gifts, saying they would never influence his position on the bill and was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. “Anyone from Nevada would say I’m glad he is there taking care of the state’s No. 1 businesses,” he told The Associated Press.

And here’s the re-write:

Reid, D-Nev., took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 from the Nevada Athletic Commission as he pressed legislation to increase federal oversight of boxing, including the creation of a government commission.

Reid defended the gifts, saying they would never influence his position on the boxing bill and that he was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. “Anyone from Nevada would say I’m glad he is there taking care of the state’s No. 1 businesses,” he told The Associated Press.

Hey, I’m all in favor of “tightening up” a story to make it flow better — Dog knows I do that when I write a post. But it’s different when you drop out a part of the story that changes the meaning of the story. In the first version it’s clear that the Nevada boxing commission was worried that Sen. Reid would vote against their interest (note: he did). In the second version it sounds like Sen. Reid is being paid off for being in favor of their goals.

Whether or not reporter John Solomon had a hand in this is unknown. Mr. Solomon has been accused by some observers as have a variety of axes to grind, including some unfavorable reporting of people who have invoked the ire of the current administration. As John Aravosis notes at AMERICAblog,

It is very difficult to believe that this was anything other than intentional on the part of the Associated Press. They appear to have changed a story – taken the most significant piece of information out of a story – in order to better smear a sitting US Senator. And before the AP says it was a simple mistaken edit, a number of the top blogs wrote about that very sentence yesterday, showing how that sentence proved the AP story was a hatchet job. Would AP now have us believe that they never heard of the criticism, and the sentence simply disappeared by accident?

Good question. Someone should investigate that.