An update on Crossfire, a post a few weeks ago that referenced a damning report by Alison Weirs of If Americans Knew, whose mission is "to inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported in the American media." (From the look of it, right now it's a single issue mission -- and that issue is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.)
Weirs' damning report accused AP (Associated Press) of erasing a video of an Israeli soldier deliberately and randomly shooting a Palestinian boy. (More here, with video.)
When I contacted an AP spokesperson, he all but dismissed Weirs' charges. But, to be honest, he didn't do so as quickly as I would have thought he would have considering that the issue was out there. It took a day to get a statement. What's more, he didn't deny everything outright. You can read AP's statement on my original Crossfire post.
Yesterday I heard from Weirs who emailed:
It is not surprising that AP, which at first refused to comment, is now denying any misbehavior. When was the last time we heard a powerful institution admit, without immense outside pressure, that it had done something wrong? Almost all criminals cry that they didn’t do it. Some did. Claiming innocence does not make one innocent.
So now people have two versions to consider:
1. My version, based on interviews with eyewitnesses (some on film) conducted in Balata and Nablus two weeks after the event, and
2. The version now advanced by AP through Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, based on we’re-not-told-what evidence acquired over a year after the event, from New York.
The first step is to consider both of these versions carefully, and not automatically accept AP’s version, merely because it is the “establishment” one. I hope that people will not equate power with truth and will not automatically or unconsciously favor an institution over an individual. I hope that people will not automatically believe a corporation over a whistle-blower. I hope that AP’s enormous power and the advantages a journalist may gain from allying with it will not cause commentators to give AP’s assertions greater weight than mine.
In your evaluation, please keep in mind that I had little to gain from writing my article, and no reason to make things up. I have had friends who have been employed by AP and I have long held many AP journalists in high regard. I have no reason to be “anti-AP”, and am not. Moreover, I knew that in writing my article I was taking on a powerful organization with considerable influence and immense resources. Nevertheless, it seemed important to expose the facts I had discovered.
Her missive is much too long to post in its entirety here. I asked if she might put it up on her website so that I could link to it. She did. So here's the link. She provides a point-by-point refutation of the AP statement given to me. Says Weirs:
AP’s power to inform, or to misinform, the American public is truly gargantuan. It is therefore profoundly important that its practices be transparent, that it be open and responsive when there is evidence that its coverage is flawed, and that it abide by its own statement of principles: “Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously.”
In 1914, AP’s general manager wrote: “I have no thought of saying The Associated Press is perfect. The frailties of human nature attach to it...the thing it is striving for is a truthful, unbiased report of the world’s happenings ... ethical in the highest degree.”
I applaud this shining statement, and deeply hope that AP’s members will hold AP to it.
Read it. Look at the video. Judge for yourself.