A month ago we republished a Facebook post by veteran investigative journalist Richard Behar as guest article. Behar shared his immediate reaction to an absolutely abysmal Associated Press feature on Gaza.
Along with his colleague, Gary Weiss, they’ve gone on to do a deep dive on that article. You have to read the whole thing over at Observer.
Just the headline and sub head make it clear the direction:
How the AP Botched Its Investigation of Civilian Deaths in the Israel-Hamas War
Posed photographs. Intentional miscategorizations. Buried corrections. One-sided sourcing. Cherry-picked quotes. And a just-plain-wrong conclusion about “most” Gaza casualties being civilians.
After describing the article they tell us about the disproportionate impact this article had:
Publications, aggregation sites and broadcast outlets picking up the AP probe ranged from the New York Times to the Drudge Report and Al Jazeera America, from the Washington Post to ABC News (The AP provided subscribers with two versions of the article, a roughly 2,250-word story and one about half that size). The U.K.’s Daily Mail and The Independent both ran the piece, no doubt reinforcing the British public’s already dim view of Israel. Even Stars and Stripes, the newspaper for U.S. Armed Forces, ran the AP “exclusive.” The wide pickup was a coup for the oldest and most ubiquitous of wire services, which operates in more than 280 locations worldwide and counts 1,400 U.S. daily newspapers among its members, plus thousands of TV and radio broadcast members.
There is just one problem. The AP’s exclusive investigation was botched in just about every imaginable way.
We conducted an investigation of the AP investigation. We (the authors) have formed a nonprofit investigative project, The Mideast Reporter, that is going to do a lot of that kind of thing. We found that the news agency reached faulty conclusions based on selective information, cherry-picked quotes, and above all its “painstaking” survey was fundamentally flawed, and was set into motion by slanted, politically biased non-governmental organizations.
You just have to head over and read it all. I’ll give you the last paragraph because I so fundamentally agree with it.
It would be an overgeneralization to say that the AP’s entire news report, or that its entire Middle Eastern coverage, is untrustworthy—though one does wonder whether this represents a more general problem at the wire service. Our reporting on this article does persuade us that the AP has disregarded its own standards too blatantly for it to be considered a fluke.