The AP Rolls Over and Dies

The gang at the Associated Press evidently hasn’t been reading its own clips.

As we pointed out yesterday, the AP’s Tom Raum and Nedra Pickler let the Kerry camp spin them by declaring that Bush has “lost 3 million jobs” during his term in office. The actual number is either 2.2 million, if you’re counting from January 2001, or 2.3 million if you start with the employment numbers from February 2001.

Today, AP’s Terence Hunt follows ignominiously in the tracks of his fellow wire servers, quoting Kerry stating that “This administration has one economic policy for America — 3 million jobs lost and driving gas prices towards $3 a gallon,” without contradicting the Massachsuetts senator’s bogus number.

The sad part is, the Associated Press once had this right, and only in the past few days has it defaulted to wrong. Forgiving the slight difference between 2.2 and 2.3 million, those who correctly cited one of those numbers in the last 15 days include not only spin victims Nedra Pickler (March 25 and March 26) and Tom Raum (March 25 and March 26), but also political/news reporters Ryan Foley (March 28), Pete Yost (March 25), Mike Glover (March 25), Jonathan Salant (March 24). Ron Powers (March 20), Alan Fram (March 17), Elizabeth Gillespie (March 18), and Ron Fournier (March 15), as well as business writers Jeannine Aversa (March 17 and March 26), Leigh Strope (March 23), and Martin Crutsinger (March 17). Ironically, the AP also got the number right in a story by Calvin Woodward on March 17 examining the records of both candidates.

We gave AP a call to ask why they got it right for so long and now get it wrong. Though a spokesman promised early in the afternoon to return our call, he hadn’t done so by 5 PM. (We’ll update if and when that happens.)

This is a case of a good echo chamber gone bad. All AP has to do to get these numbers right is to refer back to its own work, instead of transcribing campaign spin. This is exactly how mistakes and rumors evolve into facts (as appears to be happening with the “3 million” number [registration required]).

Bryan Keefer

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Bryan Keefer was CJR Daily’s deputy managing editor.