UPDATE: AP Responds Non-Responsively to Saturday Night’s Martin-Zimmerman Headlines Post

Last night (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), yours truly questioned how the Associated Press could have two identically worded stories with different headlines -- "Cache of evidence in shooting, still huge gaps" and "Amid evidence cache in Martin case, questions nag" -- posted at its national site.

This morning, Paul Colford, Director of AP Media Relations posted a comment at BizzyBlog which included a request that I note his communication with me at NewsBusters. Mr. Colford's note and my response follow the jump:


Colford's comment:

Mr. Blumer,

The motives you ascribe to the AP in the case of the two headlines and stories are ridiculous.

The earlier version (“Cache of evidence in shooting, still huge gaps”) was revised to clarify which shooting was being referenced.

Furthermore, not all AP stories update automatically online among the thousands of websites and other outlets that carry AP news.

I trust you will also transport this clarification to the version of your column that appears on Newsbusters. Thank you.

Paul Colford
Director of AP Media Relations

My response:

Mr. Colford:

Thank you for your comment. Though it is non-responsive, I have nonetheless created additional NewsBusters and BizzyBlog posts which carry it.

Unfortunately, your comment "clarifies" nothing.

Every one of the 1,547 words in each story is the same. Just to be absolutely sure, I copied the text of each into separate MS Word documents at about 10:00 a.m. Word "found no differences between the documents." So where is this "revision" to which you refer?

Or, if I am to understand that the "huge gaps"-headlined story was revised to become identical to the "questions nag" story, why didn't the "huge gaps" version go away?

The fundamental question remains: Why are two identical stories, one with a headline which clearly mischaracterizes the Martin-Zimmerman situation, and another which doesn't, still up at the AP's national site with different URLs?

Further, your point that "not all AP stories update automatically online among the thousands of websites and other outlets that carry AP news" references the substance of my theory, which was clearly presented as a theory.

The "revised" story ("questions nag") has a different URL from the "huge gaps" story, meaning that, as I understand the mechanics, it won't ordinarily update the "huge gaps" stories already posted. This would seem to mean that there are more "huge gaps" stories hanging around at the web sites of subscribing AP NewsBusters.org outlets than would ordinarily be the case.

Ordinarily, when I do a Google News search on an AP story using an older headline and click on the link, I will often (not always, but quite often) be taken to one with an updated headline (and updated content, if applicable). This morning at about 10 a.m., I tested the first twenty of the "huge gaps" headlines as listed in this Google News search on that headline (in quotes, sorted by date with duplicates). The headlines at all but one link were unchanged. Only one "questions nag" headline was located in this effort.

I ascribed no motive to AP. That would have been ridiculous. But I didn't, so it's not. I noted that "The 'huge gaps' headline's continued existence is pretty convenient for those who desperately want to keep portraying Trayvon Martin as an innocent, harmless victim while continuing to fan racial animosities." I did not say that AP was among them. I resent your careless or deliberate misreading of that very clear statement.

At the end of my original post, I wrote: "If there's a better explanation for what AP has done, I'd like to see it." That statement referenced what was from all appearances AP's unusual retention of identical but differently headlined stories at its national site. You have not provided a better explanation.

As of 1 p.m. today, both identical stories with differing headlines were still at AP's national site.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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