AP Report on 'Card Check' Status Laden With Biased-Charged Words and Anonymous Sources

OnStrikeNo one can finish Saturday's report by Sam Hananel of the Associated Press without knowing the side of the political aisle on which he resides (surprise -- not -- it's decidedly on the left), and that he is more sympathetic to the interests of organized labor than he is to those of management at non-union firms.

Additionally, no one can doubt that Hananel, and perhaps his editor(s), have little respect for AP's stated policies of relying on more than one source, attempting to avoid anonymous sources, and when using them, clearly describing "the source's motive for disclosing the information."

That's a pretty remarkable achievement for a roughly 750-word report.

First, here are three word choice examples that give away Hananel's political biases:

(1st paragraph) Organized labor is nearing a deal to salvage legislation that could aid the union movement, but it had to drop "card check" — a key component of the original bill that would allow workers to form a union by signing cards instead of holding a secret ballot vote.

Union members and their politician-supporters are the only ones who describe organized labor as a "movement" (Hananel is likely a union member). The AP writer could easily have substituted a neutral "their cause" for "union movement."

(9th paragraph) Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been leading the compromise talks with five other Democratic lawmakers — including newly converted Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — in hopes of reaching an agreement that could get 60 votes.

When did the Democratic Party become a religion? Specter is the "recently switched" Republican, and the Democratic Party is not a religious congregation (very, very, far from it).

(13th paragraph) Businesses groups that have spent millions on ads and lobbying campaigns railing against card check say its removal would not change their position. While card check has dominated the debate, business leaders say they were always more concerned about binding arbitration.
Only conservative groups "attack" and "rail" (meaning "to utter bitter complaint or vehement denunciation") in lib-left AP-land. Liberals and leftists tend to only "protest" or "criticize." Using the word "opposing" would have sufficed without casting negative aspersions, if Hananel had any intention of avoiding them.

The three anonymous sources Hananel cited are all single-sourced relative to each one's claim:

(2nd and 3rd paragraphs)

A Democratic official familiar with compromise talks on a bill to make forming unions easier said union leaders are willing to drop the politically volatile card check plan to win over wavering Senate Democrats.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are still ongoing.

(16th paragraph)

Another labor official, also requesting anonymity, said unions are comfortable that other parts of the bill would help unions level the playing field by allowing workers to organize without fear of threats and intimidation and end the stalling tactics some companies use to delay entering into collective-bargaining agreements.

(17th paragraph)

And another labor official who requested anonymity stressed that card check is not completely off the table and that no deal would be final until labor leaders check with affiliates to make sure they are on board.

There is only one anonymous source for each claim, and it is not possible to determine the source's motives. I'm not saying he did this, but Hananel could have done pulled a Janet Cooke or Jayson Blair on this story, and, unless his editors, if they exist, insisted on verification, no one would be the wiser.

Go here for more commentary on this story's improper use of anonymous sources. 

The AP shouldn't be allowing the obviously bias-charged words such as Hananel used to enter their reports and should be stopping a report with such heavy use of sloppy, credibility-sapping single anonymous sourcing before it gets out.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.