The Associated Press Goes South

January 19, 2004

Readers hit us with a flurry of emails on this one: Sunday evening Patrick Condon of the Associated Press filed a dispatch on Sen. John Edwards’ surging campaign. In the second paragraph, he wrote: “‘The South is not George Bush’s back yard,’ [Edwards] said of the Texas-born president. ‘It is my back yard and I will beat George Bush in my back yard, and you can take it to the bank,’ Edwards said as he neared the end of a final day of campaigning before today’s caucuses.”

Something is wrong here, unless there has been a change and Edwards is campaigning against Lyndon B. Johnson or Dwight D. Eisenhower. Unlike Johnson and Eisenhower, both Texans by birth, George W. Bush was brought into this world in a little place called New Haven, Connecticut.

Maybe Sunday is a day off for the AP’s fact-checkers, because by Monday morning most of the stories had been changed from “Texas-born” to “Texas-reared.” It’s a small thing, but, as every reporter knows, if you get the small things wrong, readers inevitably question whether you can get the large things right.

Campaign Desk is glad the AP finally got the facts correct — but a little irked that some newspapers, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, fixed the error without acknowledging they had made the mistake in the first place.


Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.