#StandWithWendy? The Associated Press does

The Associated Press has a story about the Texas Senate passing a law that would protect some unborn children who had reached five months’ gestation. Or, as journalists always and forever frame it, “sweeping new abortion restrictions.”

So, just how sweeping? Well, not as sweeping as the abortion laws in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Romania, Slovak Republic or France. Or Italy, Poland, Spain or Ireland, for that matter. But more sweeping than Canada, the UK and the Netherlands.

Anyway, the picture accompanying the story has a bunch of protesters and front and center is a woman holding a large crucifix. But it was the tweet that directed readers to the story that got my attention.

There it is above, but it says:

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis, who filibustered abortion bill weeks ago, gives closing remarks: apne.ws/1aAU8VN -JM #StandWithWendy— The Associated Press (@AP) July 13, 2013

Or said, I should say. After a bunch of people (including me) reacted with abject horror, the tweet was deleted. I have no idea when the tweet was deleted (though it was at least deleted by the next day or so). As one of the AP’s 2.18 million followers, I can’t really ever recall seeing a tweet from the news organization that was accompanied by a hashtag, much less one that indicates brazen support for abortion rights. (The anti-abortion hashtag for the bill in question was #Stand4Life) One AP follower asked:

Will @AP formally come out tomorrow AM and explain why it decided to #StandWithWendy?

I, too, wanted to see how the Associated Press apologized for its tweet or why it deleted the tweet, a tweet that had to offend the majority of Texans (and Americans outside of newsrooms) who, well, don’t #StandWithWendy (“One of the clearest messages from Gallup trends is that Americans oppose late-term abortion.”) I went back through dozens upon dozens of tweets to see how the #StandWithWendy tweet deletion was handled. Did AP say something? Apologize? Explain itself? If the news organization did, it wasn’t on the AP’s Twitter feed.

Going back into the wee hours of July 13, I did find 35 tweets about the George Zimmerman trial. That got me thinking. I wondered how many tweets AP sent out about another hot-button trial, one that dealt with racism, poor treatment of immigrants, drugs, serial killing of children, abortion-related deaths, obscene health violations, politics and more. I speak, of course, of the Gosnell trial. Here’s the tally for the history of AP tweets that mention George Zimmerman and/or Trayvon Martin and tweets that mention Dr. Kermit Gosnell:

George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin: more than 272

Gosnell: 2

Not a typo. Now, it’s actually more than 272, since the tweet history only goes back to March 20, 2012. Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012. The Gosnell tweets happened on May 13 and May 14 and came after the completion of the trial. Thirteen of the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin tweets were from AP’s tweeter with the intials JM, who #StandsWithWendy.  JM did not manage to get a single tweet out about the Gosnell trial.

I’m trying to think of the journalistic argument that the Zimmerman trial was — thus far — 136 times more important the Gosnell trial. Help me out if you have any ideas.

We’ll be looking at media coverage of the Zimmerman trial soon. I think perhaps the only part of the media that have covered it well are the Godbeat pros. I’m thankful for them in a sea of less-than-stellar coverage.

Isn’t that disparity in Gosnell/Zimmerman coverage on the AP feed  just utterly fascinating, though?

GetReligion readers might be interested in this essay on the importance of diversity in newsrooms that appeared in the Daily Beast:

No one seems to dispute the point that diverse viewpoints and backgrounds are needed to cover a like world. But while newsrooms have become somewhat more ethnically diverse over the last forty years, the opposite has occurred, at least in the political world, on the cultural-ideological scale.

Today, roughly half the country defines itself as pro-choice, and the other half as pro-life. About half the voters who still identify with a party consider themselves Democrats, about half Republicans. For better or worse, we live in a pretty balanced country.

Yet when you look around the newsrooms and editorial boards of most major media organizations, this ideological diversity isn’t remotely reflected. At the New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, if you were betting that three-in-four journalists were pro-choice Democrats, it would be free money. Equally important, these reporters and editors are just like most everyone else they know. The older we become, the more time we tend to spend with people like ourselves. Few of these reporters have many close friends who are pro-life, conservative Republicans. And it’s safe to say the same is true in reverse at Fox.

After highlight the particularly shocking softball treatment of Wendy Davis — by every media outlet that interviewed her, the author writes:

There are myriad problems facing news organization which are difficult, if not impossible, to fix. But this Wendy Davis syndrome is a relatively easy one. Don’t assemble newsrooms full of monochromatic thinkers. Bring in contrary views to challenge group think. As the Nieman Report concluded, a lack of diversity has a simple outcome: “bad journalism.”

Exactly. The journalism on this topic is bad. Really bad. It serves no one. The tweet that announced the AP #StandsWithWendy wasn’t the problem. The story it linked to — which was blatantly one-sided in its treatment of a contentious topic — is. This is a problem that extends throughout newsrooms and media organizations. Time to #StandForJournalism, if nothing else.

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  • Carlh

    Mollie, Thanks for noting the AP tweet (and its silent disappearance), as well as linking to the Daily Beast article. The article actually surprised me more than a little given some of what appears at the site which houses the remains of what used to be the magazine that touted itself (so long ago that I’m dating myself by even bringing it up) as “the magazine that separates fact from opinion”–presumably as poke at Time magazine.

    One of the reasons I suspect the AP reporter felt “safe” in tweeting as he/she did, is that the Twitter “universe” may be even less diverse than the news rooms, which was highlighted most recently in an analysis of twitter-feeds surrounding the big U.S. Supreme Court decisions in June.

    • Richard Mounts

      carlh,

      Do you have the link to the analysis of twitter feeds you mention? I’d love to read it. Others might find it interesting, too. Thank you.

      • Carlh

        Sorry, but I couldn’t quickly find the specific discussion of the reaction to the Supreme Court decisions. However, here’s a link to a Pew Research report from March of this year, noting that Twitter is often at odds with public opinion (based on three 2012 event samples):

        Twitter Reaction to Events Often at Odds with Overall Public Opinion

        I’ll try to look for the more recent information I referred to in my earlier comment.

  • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

    If the story itself were a fair, evenhanded news report, the argument could be made that a junior editor working late on a Friday night (read: bigwigs at home in bed) was trying to generate a few more clicks by using the popular hashtag. In that case, however, the #Stand4Life hashtag should be used, too, or at the least, another tweet should be sent out.

    But the fact that there’s no evidence of AP using hashtags in that manner adds to the mystery over this one. That, and the fact that the tweet was deleted.

    It’ll be interesting to see if AP responds to the questions.


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