Hey, anyone can make a mistake, right?
Well, some mistakes have lasting consequences, and result in fair and permanent judgments about an individual’s or an organization’s trustworthiness. I winced a bit at comments in the previous post using the term”mistake” in reference to a grown woman who was selling heroin with her boyfriend, and then after he was arrested and asked her to “take care of” his co-defendant, lured the hit-target into a homicidal ambush by another “business partner” of her and her boyfriend. What is the single “mistake” in that sequence? When did it become a mistake—after she was caught? After she was sentenced to life in prison?
The “mistake” in the case at hand isn’t a crime, just a metaphorical journalistic one. The miscreant is the Associated Press. Last week, the AP published a story about a new group buying up Spanish-speaking radio stations. “The Latino Media Network, a startup founded by two political strategists who worked for President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, reached a $60 million deal to acquire 18 AM and FM stations in ten U.S. cities from Televisa/Univision,” it reported. “The agreement announced June 3 still needs Federal Communications Commission approval.”
The piece included comments about the purchase attributed to Martha Flores, who served for years as a host of a show on Radio Mambi. Flores has been dead for two years.
Oopsie! The Associated Press’s correction on Twitter stated,
MIAMI (AP) — In a story published June 9, 2022, about the purchase of Spanish-language radio stations, The Associated Press erroneously identified a woman as Martha Flores, former host of a show on Radio Mambi in Miami, one of the stations in the proposed deal. Flores died in 2020. The woman’s identity was unclear but she attended an event expressing concern with the sale held by a coalition called the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance.”
Now wait a minute. How did this happen? How could it happen? Did the reporter make up a quote? Was someone impersonating Flores? Has she risen from the dead? The AP has a website devoted to “fact-checking, accountability journalism and misinformation coverage from AP journalists around the globe.” Whether an interview subject is alive of not seems like a pretty low bar to clear for a “factchecking” organization. Or am I being too harsh…
This wasn’t one “mistake,” it was several: a quote was mis-attributed, a dead woman was represented as alive, and apparently the editors were out to lunch, so no one checked the story. What kind of quality control does the AP have? Apparently the answer is “None.”
Why should anyone trust the Associate Press’s accounts after this? “Redemption” is too often a way to set up the next victim. Should the Uvalde police department’s personnel get a chance to redeem themselves in a school shooting? Does it make practical or ethical sense to trust them to do better next time?
Fortunately, I learned not to trust the AP long ago.