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March 16, 2005
AP To Offer Even More Biased And Bad Writing To Subscribers

Editor & Publisher reports on a new program from the Associated Press which gives its clients an option on fast-breaking news stories: an article with a traditional lead, or one with a more creative introduction to draw the reader to the story:

In a break with tradition at the 156-year-old news cooperative, the AP will now offer two different leads for many of its news stories, the organization confirmed Wednesday.

"The concept is simple: On major spot stories -- especially when events happen early in the day -- we will provide you with two versions to choose between," the AP said in an advisory to members. "One will be the traditional 'straight lead' that leads with the main facts of what took place. The other will be the 'optional,' an alternative approach that attempts to draw in the reader through imagery, narrative devices, perspective or other creative means."

Thomas Lipscomb will have plenty to say about this, I suspect. Just when he argues -- correctly -- that news reporting should stick to the facts and serve the truth, the most basic journalistic source plans on offering "imagery" instead of hard facts. AP intends on using this option only on the hottest news stories, not on analysis of older or more in-depth issues, which seems to me to be backwards. The AP thinks this will attract more readers to newspapers, but I think they're completely wrong. It's silliness like this that drove people away from the broadsheets.

To see how this would work, here's the example given by AP:


MOSUL, Iraq (AP) A suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners Thursday, splattering blood and body parts over rows of overturned white plastic chairs. The attack, which killed 47 and wounded more than 100, came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.


MOSUL, Iraq (AP) Yet again, almost as if scripted, a day of hope for a new, democratic Iraq turned into a day of tears as a bloody insurgent attack undercut a political step forward.

On Thursday, just as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad were telling reporters that they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government, a suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners in the northern city of Mosul.

Neither lead appears particularly well written. The so-called traditional version uses some questionable imagery of its own, but looks positively Dragnet-like next to the new and improved AP version. Sadly, some newspapers will prefer the second and use it as their reporting method to their readers. Those of us on the Internet will continue to see only the traditional leads, at least for now.

Why does the business case of New Coke v. Classic Coke suddenly spring to mind? The only major difference I can see is that neither version of the AP is particularly attractive. The best that can be said is that the traditional AP formula doesn't repel me as much as New AP will.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 16, 2005 12:43 PM

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» AP plans soft- and hard-lead story options from New Media Journal
Captain's Quarters reports on AP's new plan to further water down MSM news reporting. [Read More]

Tracked on March 16, 2005 2:20 PM

» AP still hammering away at the failure theme from Media Lies
The AP reports today in a story with a url that ends in "crumbling coalition" (no mystery where they're coming... [Read More]

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» Lorie Byrd throws down the gauntlet, but beware Tu from The Anchoress
Polipundit's Lorie Byrd (one of my immediate choices to replace Maureen Dowd when she finally takes my advice and goes on sabbatical to Rome...) has written a really good piece at the Spectator: [Read More]

Tracked on March 17, 2005 12:56 PM

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