Establishment press outfits have an annoying and in my view fundamentally deceptive tendency to make the content of news reports disappear once they have been "updated" with new information. The Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, is one of this technique's most egregious practitioners.
There's really no good reason for this practice. Storage is cheap. But far more important, so is leaving tracks for the sake of the historical record. In the past 48 hours, AP has virtually deep-sixed a particularly damning incident involving Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as he crowed in front of U.S. troops about Bowe Bergdahl's release.
The trouble is that the tweet's AP link no longer contains the quoted verbiage. Readers going there who are unfamiliar with the AP's shenanigans will have every reason to believe that tweeter David Cloud was deliberately misleading them.
Although Cloud's link was to a mobile version of AP's story, I can demostrate in a Google News search on the two sentences he quoted that what he saw was once there:
The quoted language wouldn't appear in the search results above unless it was once actually there in the underlying web pages.
Each of the first three listings now goes to the same story (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) at AP's national site. Hagel's quote isn't there. Hagel's name isn't even in the dispatch now posted.
The fourth listing goes to the AP's "Big Story" web site, which has apparently been designed to be the wire service's permanent record of its work. The quote's not there either, nor is Hagel's name — which is really rich, because "Hagel" is one of the story's tags, meaning that future searchers will come to the page expecting coverage of Hagel and will get none.
Though AP has purged the verbiage on soldiers' silent reaction to Hagel on its own sites, not all of its subscribers have — yet. An AP Brief still present at the Sacramento Bee contains the language to which Cloud referred (saved here), and provides enough of the context. Wait until you see how the wire service tried to explain it all away (bolds are mine):
Visiting troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stepped forward at Bagram Air Field to thank the special operations forces who retrieved Bergdahl, who officials said was the only American prisoner of war still held by insurgents in that conflict. Gen. Joseph Dunford spoke of the excitement that spread through U.S. ranks when the sergeant's release was confirmed. "You almost got choked up," he said. "It was pretty extraordinary."
Tireless campaigners for their son's freedom, Bob and Jani Bergdahl thanked all who were behind the effort to retrieve him. "You were not left behind," Bob Bergdahl told reporters, as if speaking to his son. "We are so proud of the way this was carried out." He spoke in Boise, Idaho, as residents in the sergeant's hometown of Hailey prepared for a homecoming celebration.
Hagel was met with silence when he told troops in a Bagram hangar: "This is a happy day. We got one of our own back." It was unclear whether the absence of cheers and applause came from a reluctance to display emotion in front of the Pentagon chief or from any doubts among the troops about Bergdahl.
No wonder this portion of the AP's reporting has almost completely been flushed down the memory hole. It's embarrassing.
Unskeptically relaying General Dunford's questionable assertion about "excitement that spread through U.S. ranks" is bad enough. But the howler about the possibility that the silence might have been due to "reluctance to display emotion" is a sick joke. Even "doubts among the troops about Bergdahl" downplays the situation. "Anger at someone they believe was a deserter and a possible enemy collaborator" is more like it.
If bloggers and other new media folks routinely made their work disappear the way the AP does, establishment press outlets would probably be among the first to cry foul. Look at the grief they have given new media pioneer James O'Keefe for work that is "heavily edited," something they always do with their own raw footage in the name of making content presentable and interesting.
AP and other outlets sholdn't be revising away initial reports which represent the real first draft of history in favor of the history as they want it presented. But I don't expect them to stop. If anything, I expect them to become more vigilant in cleanup operations which will make it harder to catch them in the act in anything other than real time.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.